KZN paramedics 'refuse' to ferry infected patient

The paramedics allegedly told their superiors on March 23 that they were ill-equipped to handle patients who had tested positive for Covid-19.
The paramedics allegedly told their superiors on March 23 that they were ill-equipped to handle patients who had tested positive for Covid-19.
Image: 123RF/ Pumidol Leelerdsakulvong

A group of eight paramedics in KwaZulu-Natal allegedly refused to transport a Covid-19 patient last month after claiming that they were not provided with protective gear and adequate training.

They told their superiors on March 23 that they were ill-equipped to handle patients who had tested positive for Covid-19. This was after they were instructed to transport a patient from a local Pietermaritzburg clinic to Northdale Hospital for treatment.

However, an official from the department said their refusal came a week after Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff were provided with training during a workshop.

The official, who is not authorised to speak to the media, said a circular was sent to all employees in the province instructing them to attend workshops a week before the incident.

"Everyone attended the workshops because we understand the risks that come with handling patients with Covid-19. It is common sense that additional training would be provided as this pandemic poses a different challenge to how we operate as medical practitioners," said the source.

"The district manager, (a 'Mrs Mbambo'), had to go to Grey's Hospital where the group is stationed to convince them to attend to the call but they still refused.

"She even gave them protective gear but they still refused. Another ambulance had to be dispatched from Durban to transport the patient."

One of the paramedics, who refused to be named, said yesterday they were upset by how they were treated and said they did not refuse to attend to the patient but questioned how they were expected to carry out their duties with minimal training.

"How are we expected to place our lives in danger and further place the lives of loved ones in danger? The training that was given to us was not enough for us to deal with the patient. We could not use the masks that were provided because we had them for two days," said the paramedic.

Provincial department of health spokesperson Ntokozo Maphisa said: "As a matter of principle, the department does not publicly discuss labour relations matters that are between employer and employee. That said, we can confirm that no employees have been suspended, and that the allegations concerning the non- training of EMS personnel are not true."

Nehawu provincial secretary Ayanda Zulu said there were no records reflecting that their members were trained or given protective gear to allow them to carry out their tasks.

"We told the department that at no time will we allow our members to place their lives in danger.

"The department made an attempt to charge them but they know that they do not have a case," Zulu said.

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