Stop attacking EMS crews, warns Eastern Cape health MEC

Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba Image: MICHAEL PINYANA
The continued attacks on Emergency Medical Services crews in the Eastern Cape will end up disadvantaging people who desperately need medical attention as no-one will want to go to hotspot areas, health MEC Sindiswa Gomba warned on Friday.

She was speaking at a media briefing in East London after launching 100 specialised motorbikes or scooters, which will be used to service deep rural areas that ambulances cannot reach.

Gomba called on communities to help protect EMS crews.

LAUNCH OF 100 EMS SCOOTERS IN THE EASTERN CAPE

“Our ambulance crews have been under siege for some time from criminals who have targeted them. That has to end because when ambulance crews are attacked and robbed, that will disadvantage the whole community, as no-one will willingly go to hotspot areas.

“As communities, we have to call thugs out and report them to law enforcement agencies so that our EMS crews can continue doing what they do best, which is taking services to the people and saving lives.

“We cannot have a situation where we have no-go areas. That is unacceptable. Those attacking EMS crews are our bothers, sisters and neighbours and we need to stop burying our heads in the sand, but speak up when we witness such attacks,” she said.

The 100 specialised scooters will be used to transport patients to health facilities, especially in rural areas, with rough terrain sometime inaccessible due to bad roads.

These specialised scooters, manufactured by King William’s Town firm TFM Manufacturing, come with beds for patients being transported, and will be rolled out in rural parts of the province.

During the launch, Gomba was accompanied by health minister Zweli Mkhize, who had been on a two-day visit in the province to access health facilities around Butterworth and Mthatha and the province’s Covid-19 response.

Mkhize said the specialised scooters, which are being piloted in the province, could be adopted across other rural provinces in SA.

He said such scooters, which can manoeuvre in difficult terrains, would assist in the provision of decent health services in rural areas, well beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the attacks on EMS crews were seemingly continuing unabated.

“These attacks just do not makes sense, especially in the Port Elizabeth area. Just last week, we had an ambulance shot at in that area. We also had an ambulance practitioner stabbed and this cannot be tolerated,” Kupelo said.

He said there had been “very isolated” cases reported once in a while in some areas, “but in Port Elizabeth, we have a serious crisis when it comes to ambulance attacks”.

“These attacks come in different ways. Sometimes we will get hoax calls and when we respond, we get attacked. We lost two ambulances that were burnt a few months ago, and last year while our staff members were busy loading a patient who had been shot, they too were shot at and sustained injuries.

“They get robbed of their belongings. They are traumatised in the process and we have to put them on leave and organise psychological treatment for some of them.

“Because of that anxiety and fear, they would also down tools. Sometimes we have to go to police and request escorts, and that is not enough as police also do not have enough resources to escort every emergency call that goes out.”

By Asanda Nini – DispatchLIVE

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