Paramedics working in fear, call for police escorts

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The South African Emergency Personnel Union (SAEPU) says paramedics have now become easy targets for criminals. SAEPU president Mpho Mpogeng says the government is failing to ensure the safety of paramedics.

Paramedics have seen a spike in the numbers of hoax calls and robberies in areas such as Soweto, Cosmo City and the inner city of Johannesburg.

Mpogeng says, “It is very bad and it is risky to work in the service nowadays because in the past ambulance was respected in the community but currently it is regarded as a target or easy target for the perpetrators and one thing for sure is that we are very much sad or upset about it, the issue of response from the department in various provinces because we don’t see any commitment from government to deal with this matter of attacks.”

Ekurhuleni Emergency Services William Ntladi says over the last few months, hoax calls have resulted in several paramedics being attacked and robbed.

Ntladi says they have had to find ways to continue to service communities despite their lives being in danger. He says recently a firefighter was shot and wounded following a hoax call.

He says, “We are also under siege in terms of the attacks from the unknown people within the different communities. So we do receive calls that we find that when our ambulance and firefighters go out there and they find there is no real call and they find that their properties and belongings are being robbed from them. And in the worst-case scenario we had one of our own firefighters who suffered a gunshot wound on her back by an unknown member of the public while trying to go and assist.”

As a result of these increased attacks, Emergency services now have resorted to calling police escorts for certain areas.

Johannesburg Emergency Services spokesperson, Robert Mulaudzi says a number of areas have been identified where paramedics are scared of going to without an escort

Mulaudzi says, “There were a number of areas that were identified, mostly it was the inner city, Cosmo city, we had some incidents in some parts of Soweto. When we have an emergency in those areas, we activate our colleagues from public safety, JMPD, to be able to escort us, while over and above the escort we could continue to conduct our awareness campaigns throughout all seven regions of the City of Johannesburg.”

The Gauteng Department of Community Safety has condemned hoax calls to emergency services and attacks on paramedics.

Department spokesperson Ofentse Morowane has urged communities to report those responsible so they can face the full might of the law.