The Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) on Tuesday condemned attacks on emergency service workers, allegedly perpetrated by tow truck drivers in the Free State.
“Whether these attacks are physical or verbal, we view it as a very serious interference with the duties of these critical role players in our healthcare system,” said the union’s Free State secretary André Harmse.
“Furthermore, it must be said that to degrade a fellow human being like this is totally unacceptable. We call on the full might of the law to take its course with the perpetrators.”
Paramedic Yvonne Peter, 40, was assaulted by tow truck drivers while responding to an accident between a train and a motor vehicle in Heidedal, Bloemfontein, on Saturday.
Hospersa said Peter was subjected to racist remarks and physical attacks, during which her hairpiece was pulled off. The tow truck drivers apparently accused her of “trying to kill them” during the high-speed rush to the accident scene.
Hospersa said another paramedic, Robert Motoko, suffered injuries in his spine after he was attacked by a tow truck driver while responding to an accident scene earlier this month.
“The father of three was admitted to hospital. At the time, the head of the department in the province admitted that these types of attacks were happening at an alarming rate all over the Free State.”
The union’s national general secretary Noel Desfontaines said the attacks had become a national problem.
“What happened in the Free State now is truly alarming, as it points to a national problem. We will engage with both our national and provincial leadership structures to see how we can start a concerted campaign to assist our members in EMS,” said Desfontaines.
“While there are rumours of possible strike action, Hospersa has consistently pledged our support to a constructive and collaborative approach with the employer. All we want is for our members to be able to do their jobs – in a healthy and safe environment.”
Desfontaines said Hospersa recently campaigned against violence targeting emergency services workers in the Western Cape, where a spate of gang-related crimes led to shootings and attacks on paramedics.
The Western Cape health department has since announced that the province would arrange police escorts for ambulances responding to calls in the affected suburbs, said Desfontaines.
In Johannesburg, City of Johannesburg reported incidents where EMS workers were robbed while on duty. In July, six paramedics were robbed at gunpoint while attending to a patient who had been stabbed in Jeppestown.
– African News Agency (ANA)