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17 January 2017

The Health & Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) yesterday sent an open letter regarding the escalating attacks on Emergency Health Services (EMS) staff in the Western Cape to said province’s Member of the Executive Committee (MEC) for Health.  While the letter acknowledges the efforts of the Department to address the problem, it requests urgent intervention to relieve the pressure felt by the Hospersa’s EMS members while also indicating plans to approach the Minister of Health through the Union’s mother body, the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA).

In the letter, Hospersa alerted the MEC, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo of the increasing rate of attacks in certain areas around Cape Town.  The Union says that there were more than 100 reported cases in 2016, arguing that the frequency of attacks seems to be rising.

The most recent attacks took place during the festive season where a total of seven incidents were reported.  These attacks included cases of armed robbery, stoning of EMS vehicles and the mishandling of staff over their personal belongings.  In the letter, the union has brought this matter to the MEC’s attention and have asked her to reassure EMS members on safety issues pertaining to their working environment.

This is not the first time that the union has raised these concerns with the Provincial Health Department of the Western Cape.  On 14 September 2016, EMS members took part in march through Philipi in the Cape Flats to send a strong message about the rising attacks.  On the day, paramedics were joined by the MEC who assured EMS staff that she would stop the service should the attacks continue.  While Hospersa’s letter recognises the MEC for her participation in the march, the Union requests urgent feedback on measures being implemented to stop the scourge of attacks.

At its core, Hospersa’s letter attempts to highlight the difficult decision EMS members have to make every time they have to respond to emergency calls in the areas involved.  It illustrates how EMS members have to either put their lives in danger by responding to these calls, or stand back and face possible disciplinary action.  Hospersa asks the MEC to intervene in this regard and provide a way forward that protects EMS members’ lives as well as their livelihoods.  The open letter places much emphasis on this plea and questions the employer’s responsibility in ensuring employees safety at work as per the Occupational Health & Safety Act (OHSA).

“Our letter also questions the Department’s role in ensuring affected members receive sufficient support.  To date, there are more than fifty employees receiving post traumatic stress treatment from these attacks.  Even worse, members are expected to pay for this [treatment] from their own pockets.  The reason for this [the non-payment] is that such injuries are not covered by COIDA [the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Disease Act],” said Western Cape Provincial Chairperson, Michael Serelina – himself involved in EMS for many years.  “We want the MEC to intervene in easing the financial burden on the affected members.  We want the employer to take an active role in ensuring affected members receive the necessary support,” he said.

“Hospersa will continue to be at the forefront in engaging with all affected parties as well as the EMS Director [Dr Shaheem De Vries] to find solutions of securing the safety of EMS staff,” Serelina continued.  “We will also utilise our federation, FEDUSA, to approach the Minister [of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi] and ask for national intervention,” Serelina concluded.



Total words (excluding heading):  583

For interviews please contact Hospersa’s Western Cape Provincial Chairperson, Michael Serelina on 079-899-2844.

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