04 August 2016

The Health & Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) expressed alarm over the safety of its members in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Cape Town.  A recent spate of gang and crime-related violence has led to EMS workers being threatened not only on the streets, but also at their bases.  Hospersa is calling on the Department of Health (DoH) to intervene urgently.

Last night at approximately 21:40 Hospersa received a call from one of the shop stewards that two members were held at gunpoint in Philippi and all that their belongings and other equipment were taken away from them.  This happened after earlier this week Hospersa met with senior management of the DoH to discuss the burning issue of violence against EMS workers.  The meeting was precede by reports of various Hospersa members being robbed, stabbed and submitted to various kinds of violence. 

“We are alarmed at the violence faced by our EMS members,” said Hospersa Western Cape Provincial Secretary Marthenique Marinus.  “It is unacceptable that our members are expected to work in these conditions while the Department fails to take action.  One would expect that there would be greater care taken of these critical role-players in our health care system,” she added.

During the meeting Hospersa reported that earlier a police escort fled the scene when gangsters opened fire, leaving the ambulance and crew behind to face the rain of bullets alone.

“Hospersa raised the concern that we do not only need to look at those on the road but also those at the various bases.  We physically checked the panic button on the MDT device and to our surprise it was not functioning at all.  We raised various questions surrounding who is responsible for checking of such devices, but the employer failed to respond,” reported Marinus.

At previous engagements Hospersa also made specific mention of other safety issues at EMS bases.  This included the fact that female toilets do not have locks, as well as the general failure of security at the various bases to stop visitors or check vehicles that leave the premises.  In some cases there were even reports of ambulances being broken into while parked at the base itself.

“Even though we know that crime is rife in South Africa, we believe that employers should always go the extra mile to ensure the safety of their employees while on duty,” said Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines.  “Surely the Department can do more to be proactive and put the necessary preventative measures in place,” he said.

Hospersa remains concerned that the DoH is highly reactive when it comes to issues of health and safety.  The Union reports that there are numerous examples of where the Department only reacts once Hospersa raises matters. 

“Our members are really hopeless and frustrated now,” said Desfontaines.  “Some actually suggested downing tools until the employer comes up with something to protect their lives.  The employer has a duty to provide a safe and healthy working environment, but now we see paramedics being scared to go out at night fearing for their lives,” concluded Desfontaines.



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For more information please contact Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines on 083-321-4427.