The Star Late Edition

Action, not words, needed to end attacks on medics

- GOITSEMANG TLHABYE goitsemang.tlhabye@inl.co.za

WORDS with no action behind them will not put an end to the senseless attacks and killings of emergency medical services personnel, their union has said.

Its leaders were responding to a call by MEC for Health Dr Nomathemba Mokgethi for communitie­s to help put an end to continued attacks on emergency services workers responding to calls.

Mokgethi said unless communitie­s worked together with law enforcemen­t agencies to put an end to the attack on personnel and the vandalism of their equipment, many people needing emergency medical care might find themselves without assistance as workers would be reluctant to respond to calls for help. She stressed that an attack on emergency services should be seen as an attack on the rest of society.

Mokgethi’s sentiment followed the attack of two crew members who were shot at on Friday night while responding to a gunshot incident at the Dukathole informal settlement in Germiston. One crew member who was shot was rushed to the hospital and the resident who the personnel were rushing to assist died on the way to the hospital.

However, Mpho Mpogeng, president of the South African Emergency Personnel Union, said the statements were not sufficient to stem the wave of attacks on emergency personnel. Mpogeng said words but no action from people with the powers to protect workers were a particular­ly “bitter pill” to swallow.

He said they were disappoint­ed that even though they had repeatedly made the call for the protection of workers and sent through proposals, nothing had been done to date.

Mpogeng said as a union, they would have hoped that government department­s instituted outreach campaigns in areas prone to attacks so as to rally behind workers.

“We’ve suggested many things, from procuring bulletproo­f vests to installing trackers and a dashboard camera, but when we go back to check the progress, we find that nothing has been done.

“There is a budget for the safety of the workers, but nothing is forthcomin­g and we just don’t know what more needs to happen.”

Mpogeng said even plans implemente­d by the department were ineffectiv­e, as workers were being intimidate­d by their managers not to use them.

Tshwane Emergency Services spokespers­on Charles Mabaso said that thankfully the capital city had been spared recent attacks by criminals, with the last incident reported taking place between two to three years back. He said, however, that given the high level of concern for their workers’ safety, they had ensured that they were trained to evaluate each situation when responding to calls.

Mabaso said that although there had been no recent attacks in Tshwane, they were monitoring all areas for any hot spots.

So far, he said there had been no identified hot spots in Tshwane.

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