30 August 2016

The Health & Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) condemned the recent attacks on its members in the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in Bloemfontein.  A recent spate of attacks on paramedics saw the hospitalisation of one Hospersa member earlier this month as well as another humiliating attack and racist insult on another EMS worker this past weekend.

This past weekend a female paramedic was responding to a accident when she was verbally attacked by tow truck drivers.  The accident between a train and a motor vehicle happened at around 22:30 on Saturday night in McKenzie Street in Heidedal, Bloemfontein.  It is reported that Yvonne Peter, aged 40 was subjected to a violent attack during which her hairpiece was pulled off.  She was also the victim of racist remarks from some of the tow truck drivers.  They allegedly called her various racial derogative names after the ambulance and tow trucks drove to the scene of the accident at speed.  The tow truck drivers apparently accused her of “trying to kill” them.  The case was reported to the South African Police Services (SAPS).

“As Hospersa we condemn this attack in the strongest of terms.  Hospersa will always fight against any attack on health workers while they are trying to do their job,” said Hospersa Free State Provincial Secretary André Harmse.  “Whether these attacks are physical or verbal, we view it as a very serious interference with the duties of these critical role-players in our health care system.  Furthermore it must be said that to degrade a fellow human being like this, is totally unacceptable.  We call on the full might of the law to take its course with the perpetrators,” he added.

Just earlier this month there was a similar attack, also at Heidedal.  An EMS member of Hospersa, Mr Robert Motoko was attacked by a tow truck driver after responding to an accident scene.  The father of three suffered various spinal injuries and was admitted to hospital.  At the time the Head of Department (HoD) of the Free State Department of Health (DoH) admitted that these types of attacks were happening at an alarming rate all over the Free State.

“Hospersa is an organisation that stands for protecting the health and safety of our members,” said Hospersa General Secretary Noel Desfontaines.  “We simply cannot stand by and let these dangerous situations hamper the important work done by EMS workers.  While we applaud the fact that the HoD visited our member in hospital in support, we will further engage the employer to see what can be done to protect paramedics in the Free State”, he added.

Also earlier this month, Hospersa campaigned around violence against EMS workers in the Western Cape, where a recent spate of gang-related crime scenes led to shootings and attacks on paramedics.  The provincial DoH had since announced that they would arrange police escorts for ambulances responding to calls in the affected suburbs.

“What happened in the Free State now is truly alarming, as it points to a national problem,” said Desfontaines.  “We will engage with both our national and provincial leadership structures to see how we can start a concerted campaign to assist our members in EMS.  While there are rumours of possible strike action, Hospersa has consistently pledged our support to a constructive and collaborative approach with the employer.  All we want is for our members to be able to do their jobs – in a healthy and safe environment,” concluded Desfontaines.


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