Attacks on Cape Town EMS claim its first life

Farren Collins And Nashira Davids

Stock Image of ambulance lights
Stock Image of ambulance lights
Image: STOCK IMAGE

 There have been more than 30 attacks on Emergency Medical Service personnel in the Western Cape alone this year‚ with the latest one proving fatal to a patient.

An injured eight-year-old boy died on Wednesday afternoon after an attack on the ambulance he was in.

Emergency Medical Services personnel helped the child‚ who sustained serious head injuries when he was involved in a motor vehicle accident on Tuesday night‚ and rushed him to Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. They were travelling on the N2 near to Borchards Quarry when the ambulance was attacked.

“The crew was robbed [at gun point] and the ambulance [was] left immobile‚’’ said Robert Daniels‚ spokesman for the Emergency Medical & Forensic Pathology Services in the Western Cape. Daniels told TimesLIVE that it was the “delay which contributed to his death’’.

Rossouw said EMS personnel had grown “gatvol” of the violence. “It’s really difficult because people die on our watch and we feel helpless. You ask yourself: ‘Am I going to go into that red zone area or not?’.”

In recent years attacks on EMS staff have escalated. In some high-risk areas police have to escort ambulances. But police escorts often put EMS personnel at more risk and led to them being further targeted‚ according to Cape Town-based paramedic JP Rossouw.

“Our policy says we are not allowed to neglect treatment to a patient unless we are put in danger‚” Rossouw said. “Now we have to ask Saps to escort us‚ but that puts a bigger target on us because criminals also target the police for their firearms. And often the police station is in the middle of dangerous areas and we have to drive through them just to get to the police.”

Daniels said that EMS personnel were marked by criminals for their personal belongings “like cellphones‚ jewelry and money”.

According to Daniels none of the previous attacks on EMS personnel resulted in death. Wedensday’s incident is being investigated by police.

SAPS spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said that a case of robbery and malicious damage to property had been opened at the Nyanga police station. “No one has been arrested at this stage‚” said Rwexana.

Rossouw said EMS personnel had grown “gatvol” of the violence. “It’s really difficult because people die on our watch and we feel helpless. You ask yourself: ‘Am I going to go into that red zone area or not?’.”

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