Editorials 15.9.2016 08:26 am

Paramedics’ safety critical as criminal incidents rise

FILE PICTURE: Netcare paramedics attend to an accident. Picture: Supplied

FILE PICTURE: Netcare paramedics attend to an accident. Picture: Supplied

It cannot be permitted that people who save lives are not safe when carrying out this essential service.

In any normal society, emergency services workers would be seen as lifesavers who deserve to be protected and never harmed. But not in this country.

The incidence of paramedics targeted by criminals while attending to patients is disturbingly on the rise. And although police escort them when they can, criminals are increasingly taking advantage of these “soft targets” in areas rife with crime.

So widespread are these attacks that some emergency services companies have partnered with private security companies to protect paramedics from attack

A few years ago, the country was shocked when merciless thugs attacked and raped two women paramedics who were treating a burnt toddler in Durban Deep, near Roodepoort. The women were dragged out of an ambulance, stripped naked, forced to perform oral sex on their assailants and then raped repeatedly.

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In June, four armed men ambushed two paramedics near Blackheath in Cape Town as they were loading a patient into an ambulance. A few days earlier, six Johannesburg Emergency Management Services paramedics were robbed at gunpoint while attending to a stabbing in Jeppestown.

Yesterday, hundreds of Western Cape emergency medical services staffers marched through Philippi in Cape Town protesting against attacks by criminals. They pleaded with residents to help ensure their safety while they served communities.

Some areas have been classified as “red zones” because it is so dangerous to work in them and ambulances need police escorts to enter these areas

It is troubling that people providing a lifesaving service to the community can be attacked and violated in such a cruel manner. That attackers have no regard for the lives of the people the paramedics are attending to shows how vicious and brazen criminals in this country have become.

It cannot be permitted that people who save lives are not safe when carrying out this essential service. Everything possible must be done to ensure communities blow the whistle on these monsters, who must be removed from our streets.

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