The Eastern Cape department of health says paramedics who feel threatened when they attend to emergencies will ask the police to escort them following yet another robbery.
Provincial department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said an on-duty ambulance crew was robbed at gunpoint at around 22:00 on Wednesday in Port Elizabeth.
The crew had been called to assist in a maternity case in Tuta Lane in New Brighton.
“Both crew members were inside the house busy attending to a patient who had already delivered her newborn. The female crew member went to the ambulance and was confronted by a male,” said Kupelo.
The crew called for help using their ambulance radio communication system and the shift leader and other colleagues rushed to the scene to help them.
“There were community members at the scene but [they] could not assist ambulance crew members during their ordeal.”
Ambulance response times to be affected
Kupelo said the two robbers disappeared without firing any shots and no injuries had been reported.
“Both crew members are fine but shocked and will receive psychological treatment. Both the patient and the newborn baby are fine and were later taken to Dora Nginza Hospital,” Kupelo said.
He said following a series of similar incidents in the Port Elizabeth area, ambulance crew would now conduct situational analyses before attending to calls and would go out in teams.
“If the situation looks suspicious they will run to a nearest police station and request an escort.”
Kupelo acknowledged that this would affect ambulance response times and possibly lead to complications and deaths.
“While the department strives to provide prompt and efficient emergency service to the community, the safety of our staff members is equally important and we cannot fail them and risk their lives.”
He said the increasing attacks had prompted the department to meet with the provincial police commissioner in December 2017.