EC doctors drive patients to hospitals in private cars as paramedics down tools after robbery 

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The attack on paramedics is an ongoing issue.

On Monday, doctors working at clinics in Gqeberha, in the Eastern Cape had to juggle between taking care of patients, and using their private cars to drive other patients referred to hospitals from their facilities. Nurses say they had to ask patients’ relatives to find private cars to drive them to hospitals.

This comes as Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel downed tools or parked ambulances after two paramedics were robbed at gunpoint outside a clinic in Kwazakhele township on Monday morning.

The South African Emergency Personnel’s Union (SAEPU) Eastern Cape chairperson Luyanda Norushu says they downed tools because attacks on paramedics are continuing unabated. Attacks on paramedics around the country have been an ongoing issue for years now. 

A doctor working in one of the clinics says they had no choice but to leave their duties and transport patients. “In our clinic, we had patients who urgently needed to be transferred to hospital. Unfortunately, there were no ambulances and we could not let them die. I drove the patients to the hospital which is about 20 km away two times,” he tells Health-e News. 

He says other patients were not happy as they had to wait longer. 

A nurse working in another clinic says it was a chaotic day as they had to ask relatives of patients referred to the hospital to find their transport.

“We have a WhatsApp group where we request ambulances but they were ignoring us. Our doctor rushed two patients to the hospital in his car,” she says.

Paramedics ambushed 

Norushu says on Monday morning just after 8am an EMS crew working in the Kwazakhele clinic were confronted by six suspects who robbed them of their personal belongings.

“They drove away with the ambulance but it stopped a few minutes away,” he says. 

He says this is one of the areas where EMS workers need a police escort. 

“The attacks on our members have been an everyday thing. Everyday there is a gunshot in Gqeberha. However when we get to the scene it becomes difficult to assist the patient as people will start shooting at us,” he says. 

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Norushu says when they go to a scene without the police, some people take advantage and rob them. 

“When we arrive late at the scene we get attacked by community members. But they don’t understand that it takes time for us to go to the police station and get a police escort.”

Cries falling on deaf ears 

Norushu says SAEPU has engaged with EMS management and the Eastern Cape Health Department about the attacks on EMS but nothing has been done.

“Even with the event that happened on Monday, no one said anything. On Tuesday (today), we decided to go back to work because it’s unfair to punish other communities. But we have decided not to provide services to Kwazakhele township until the police have arrested the suspects.”  

Eastern Cape police spokesperson, Captain Andre Beetge confirms the incident. He says the suspects tried to drive off with the ambulance but abandoned it and fled on foot. “Police are investigating a case of attempted hijacking,” he says.

Sizwe Kupelo, Eastern Cape ealth spokesperson, says the department is gravely concerned about these attacks.

“These attacks adversely affect service delivery. We call on broader community structures to come together to find ways to put a stop to these barbaric attacks on our employees,” he says. 

Country wide issue 

According to a statement issued last year already by the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), these attacks have been happening across the country.

“The situation is getting more dire with some areas classified as hotspots where responses to emergency calls require armed escort by either police and private security firms. As a result this interferes with the services that are being provided by EMS,” read the statement. – Health-e News


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