EMS personnel’s safety a priority for WCDOH

Anroux Marais MPP

DA Western Cape Spokesperson for Health

On 11 September 2013, the Western Cape Department of Health presented to the Standing Committee on Community Development on the measures in place to ensure the safety of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel while on duty.

Attacks on EMS officials has become a serious concern, especially since they render invaluable lifesaving services to the people of the Western Cape.

In this meeting, we were made aware that a bullet was found lodged in the headrest of an ambulance passenger seat. A monitor worth R25 000 was stolen out of an ambulance while EMS personnel was attending to a call inside the patient’s house. It was later established that the monitor was sold for R300 as scrap and metal. These are but a few examples of the conditions under which EMS officials have to do their jobs and save lives.

Since January to August 2013, there has been 2 physical assaults on EMS personnel and 5 were threatened with a weapon. In comparison, 6 were physically assaulted in the period from January to December 2012 and 2 were threatened with a weapon. During January to December 2012 EMS personnel were called to render their services as a result of gang violence 31 times and from January to August 2013, there were 2 such cases.

It is clear that there has been a decline in attacks on EMS officials and I commend the Western Cape Department of Health for their efforts in ensuring the safety of EMS staff. Under the direction of the Department, areas are now classified. In red areas. Ambulance crew respond to the nearest South African Police Services (SAPS) station and remain within a secure environment until patient is delivered to them. In yellow areas, ambulance crew receive details from dispatch in order to meet SAPS escort and proceed to incident address under escort. If SAPS is at the incident address, the crew may proceed directly to the incident. In green areas, crew may respond to all incidents with escort and taking all normal safety procedures into consideration during the response.

It is important that the public is aware of these area classifications so to avoid misunderstandings and confusion. On behalf of the DA in the Western Cape, I urge communities to assist the Western Cape Department of Health and SAPS in ensuring the safety of the EMS personnel as they provide an essential out-of-hospital service for the wellbeing of the public.