Medics under attack

Two paramedics were robbed and attacked in Seawinds.

Community leaders have strongly condemned the attack on two Emergency Medical Service (EMS) staff in Seawinds on Sunday December 9.

The two paramedics responded to a call for help in St Patrick’s Road at about 7.30am.

The patient was declared dead on arrival so the paramedics returned to the ambulance to retrieve death certification paperwork but they were held up at gunpoint, assaulted and robbed of a cellphone.

Provincial health department spokesperson, Robert Daniels, said the men are receiving counselling for trauma.

The area has now been declared a red zone for ambulances, meaning it is dangerous for EMS crews to go there without police escorting them.

Mr Daniels said there is a growing concern about increased attacks on ambulance crews around Cape Town.

From January to October, there have been 56 attacks on EMS staff.

Lucinda Evans, Lavender Hill community worker and chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum (CPF) cluster, condemned the attack.

Ms Evans heard about the attack and appealed on Facebook for residents to come forward with information about the incident.

“I am disappointed and disgusted. I am condemning this act with the strongest of contempt it deserves,” said Ms Evans.

Following information received about two men who are affiliated to gangs being involved, Ms Evans indirectly got in contact with the gang leadership and appealed for the cellphone to be returned and it was.

“Their actions are now having an adverse effect on the community because we already have trouble getting medical attention now it is going to be worse. We are now a red zone.”

She said it is ultimately the community’s responsibility to ensure the EMS staff’s safety.

“The community must push back and must look out for the safety of paramedics because those EMS staff can’t do their jobs if they are not protected. Many lives will be lost if this continues and communities then have to wait longer for medical help because the paramedics first need to go to the police and wait to be escorted.

“People shouldn’t complain when ambulances take six hours to come out to calls,” she said.

The incident comes just a week after the issue of safety to EMS staff and firefighters was discussed at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) EMS Safety Symposium.

Part of the interventions implemented by the department were training neighbourhood watch and CPF members to be first responders.

Ms Evans said this plan for training needs to be fast-tracked in the area.

“People from our areas need to be trained so that they can help medical staff in emergency situations as well as keep them safe when they are in the area.

“Also, are we ready to have the conversation between government and civil society about a dedicated security force to protect ambulance crews? Maybe that should be looked into.”

Ms Evans thanked those who assisted with information about the incident.

“They are the true heroes. To the gang leaders, I thank you for returning the phone but my question is what is the next step? How are we going to work to safeguard our communities because there are people who are robbing service delivery personnel and putting people’s lives at risk,” said Ms Evans.

Mr Daniels said residents have to make themselves visible while an ambulance crew is tending to their neighbour.

“We’re highlighting EMS safety this festive season so our tagline reads ‘please keep our EMS professionals safe because an attack on EMS is an attack on your own community’,” he said.

Captain Stephen Knapp, spokesperson for Muizenberg police, said the two paramedics were approached by two unknown men, who verbally threatened them. One of the paramedics was assaulted and the suspects managed to get away with the victim’s cellphone.

A case of common robbery and assault is being investigated and no arrests have been made.

Anyone with information can contact Detective Constable Benita Campher on 021 787 9022.