Health and Other Services Personnel Trade Union of South Africa (Hospersa) this week revealed that nearly 100 ambulance crews have been shot at, robbed or assaulted this year after they responded to emergencies.
Raising the alarm, Hospersa – a union of more than 60 000 health workers – said the attacks were mostly in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
Condemning recent attacks on Emergency Medical Service (EMS) personnel in the country, Hospersa warned the situation could get worse if the government failed to intervene.
Recently, Victor Labuschagne, who has been working in EMS for the past 30 years, recounted how he was shot and wounded last year in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town.
The 47-year-old said he was shot in December while responding to an emergency call out.
Hospersa, with members from both the public and private health sectors, warns the attacks are likely to continue.
The union said it has called on the government to strengthen its efforts in providing a safe working environment for its EMS members.
The most recent attack took place on Monday morning when an ambulance was attacked in Vredenburg, a town in the west coast area of the Western Cape province.
Two EMS personnel sustained serious injuries resulting in one of them being rushed to hospital.
Last month, a KwaZulu-Natal EMS medic lost her life while another was critically injured when two gunmen ambushed their ambulance while treating a patient.
In the same month in Gauteng, a rock was hurled at a moving ambulance while transporting a patient from a car accident scene.
Hospersa warned EMS attacks could worsen during the festive season.
“We strongly condemn the increasing levels of EMS attacks,” said Hospersa General Secretary Waheed Hoosen on Thursday.
“While it is our members’ duty to respond to calls, it should not be at the expense of their lives.
“It is deplorable that there are still individuals who make false emergency phone calls with the intention to lure EMS personnel in order to rob them.”
Hospersa said it was calling on the government to provide a safe work environment, which adheres to the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act.
“We cannot have a situation where the government continues as if it is business as usual while our members’ lives continue to be at risk,” declared Hoosen.
“The state, as the employer, has a legal obligation to prioritise the safety of our EMS members during the execution of their essential medical service.”