Health department demands action after thugs pounce on medics
The Eastern Cape health department has called for police to prioritise the investigation of crimes committed against ambulance crews.
This comes after medical personnel transporting an asthmatic patient in Nelson Mandela Bay were attacked and robbed in the early hours of Monday.
The incident in Joe Slovo, Port Elizabeth, left the ambulance crew injured as well as traumatised. They had to be taken to the Dora Nginza Hospital for treatment.
“At the time of the uncalled-for attack, the ambulance crew had been transporting to hospital an asthmatic patient who had complained of shortness of breath,” said department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo.
"At the Chatty Dip crossing on the R75, a car, believed to be a Golf hatchback, was driving ahead of the ambulance."
The crew said the Golf made a U-turn and drove head-on towards the ambulance, flicking its headlights as if to warn the ambulance. The crew suspected no foul play, so they drove on towards the intersection - only to find that it had been barricaded.
“Three men appeared from the dark and approached the ambulance. The thugs used an object to smash the diver's side window, injuring the attendant's left hand and wrist,” said Kupelo.
Another crew member and the patient were robbed of their belongings.
The rim of the left rear wheel of the ambulance was also damaged.
Kupelo urged community members to protect EMS crew, who work under difficult conditions to save lives.
“Communities should always make sure that ambulance crews are protected when they are in their communities. When the thugs create 'no-go zones' for ambulances, that will hurt the people that desperately need medical attention - and at times might result in death,” he said.
"We are hopeful that the police will prioritise investigating crimes against ambulance crews so that those behind these acts of criminality will be brought to book."
The EMS shift commander attended the scene to ensure that staff and the patient were taken to Dora Nginza Hospital for assessment and care. They will also be offered counselling.
Kupelo said a similar modus operandi was used at the same spot in recent weeks, where shots were fired at a private ambulance service when making a U-turn in an attempt to drive away.
The police were called and are investigating the attack.
"It is pure thuggery that has to be rooted out. And for that to happen, an all-hands-on-deck approach is needed. Communities have to come forward and work with law enforcement agencies because the people attacking EMS crews live among us," said Kupelo.