Red zone danger

Paramedics fear coming into red zone areas resulting in further lives being lost.
Gang violence has claimed more lives in Lavender Hill, but not by bullets.
The families of two people in Lavender Hill claimed their relatives might still have been alive had paramedics been able to get to them in time.
On Saturday June 29, an elderly woman and a man needed urgent medical care and their families called emergency services but no help arrived.
Community leader Adele Campbell said people are not only in danger of being shot and killed, but also from not getting the help they need.
“Monica Jacobs, 72, from Sulkirk Court fell ill and an ambulance was called but was unable to come out to the area without a police escort because it is a red zone. The family then went to meet the ambulance half way, but gangsters started shooting and wanted to rob the ambulance. 
It’s sad to see that relevant stakeholders and services of much needed help are being affected and are unable to come to our communities because of the violence,” she said.
She said the current situation is unconstitutional.
“Our people are dying and gangsters are holding us hostage. Our seniors are dying because they can’t get medical help they need. We are helpless and things are seemingly getting worse and worse.”
Police are not even safe. Our society is being robbed of peace and there are many questions of control,” said Ms Campbell.
Another man, from Frere Court, collapsed that same Saturday morning. His family called an ambulance because he was unresponsive.
After two hours the ambulance had still not arrived.
Witness Bonita Stoeble said they could not carry the man from the third floor flat to the car but had to after waiting two hours for the ambulance. They took him to Retreat Community Health Centre (CHC) but he was declared dead on arrival.

“Then the paramedics called just after nine to ask if we still need assistance. It was too late by then and a man’s life was lost. Things could have been so different if he was medically assisted,” she said.

Gavin Walbrugh from the Steenberg Community Policing Forum (CPF) said it was unfortunate that two people had to die as a result of paramedics not being able to come into the area.

“The situation is dire. We as the cluster have had meetings with the minister of police, with other role-players and spheres and there is just not enough help coming to gang-stricken communities.

“On the other hand, communities are also not taking charge. If the ambulance has to come into the area, the community have to safeguard that ambulance. It is unacceptable that our own people are shooting at ambulances who are only trying to help law-abiding residents. We need people to come forward with information about gang activities and shootings. We need to stand up against what is happening in our communities,” said Mr Walbrugh.

He said the South African National Defence Force had to be deployed into the area. “We need assistance and need the areas to be stabilised because this cannot go on. Enough is enough. If you have a sick family member they cannot get to the hospital because most of the residents don’t have transport.

Nomawethu Sbukwana, spokesperson for Health MEC, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, said if an emergency medical service (EMS) vehicle or staff was attacked in a particular area, it would be declared a red zone and no EMS vehicle or staff will go into the area without a police escort, which resulted in delayed response times and delayed emergency medical care in the area.

She said there were specific criteria applied to “coding” various areas in relation to their safety status, which was managed with police intervention so that vehicles could enter to extract ill or injured patients. “This has been applied successfully in most cases where there has been a potentially dangerous situation through the adoption of a ‘load and go’ policy whereby patients, in a red zone, are loaded into the ambulance, stabilised and transported,” she said.

The department has an initiative called Khuseleka, which aims to encourage co-operation within broader society to help keep health workers safe.

“No individual or group can guarantee the safety of health workers, but a whole-of-society approach can make a difference. Representatives of various stakeholders came together to show solidarity for staff safety,” she said.

Ms Sbukwana added that extensive engagements were ongoing with the South African Police Services, community police forums, the Department of Community Safety and other safety organisations. “We appeal to communities to rally for this cause. The neighbourhood watches and citizens themselves are an important aspect to securing our staff when we enter areas. Community members are encouraged to come out of their houses when someone has phoned for an ambulance or putting the lights on,” she said.

Ms Stoeble also advised people to pay attention to life insurance companies that might have their own emergency response.

“People need to know that there are options. I implore people to check their policies’ information to check if there are any other ambulance options to get a loved one emergency care.”

For emergencies residents can call 10177, 112 from cellphones or the City of Cape Town general emergency number 107.