Bay EMS workers down tools after attack

Intermediary Life Support EMS member Pamela Mnqwazana points out the bullet holes left in one of the ambulances after an attack in 2015
DANGEROUS JOB: Intermediary Life Support EMS member Pamela Mnqwazana points out the bullet holes left in one of the ambulances after an attack in 2015
Image: THE HERALD/WERNER HILLS

Emergency services workers in Nelson Mandela Bay downed tools on Friday after an attack on ambulance crew members earlier in the week.

The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers, who staged a protest at the city hall on Friday morning, said they regretted not being able to provide the community with services but they needed their safety ensured.

The downing of tools by EMS workers — after a crew member was stabbed in the chest while on call in Walmer Township on Tuesday —  comes as a blow to the Bay health system, which is limping along after the closure of the Motherwell Community Health Centre and a go-slow at Livingstone Hospital.

At the Motherwell clinic, staff say they do not have sufficient personal protective equipment and have concerns after a colleague tested positive for Covid-19.

The thorny issue of PPE also reared its head at Livingstone, where staff also complained that non-clinical staff had been told they would not be paid overtime.

Zintle Nqandu, an EMS worker who has been robbed twice in the past while out on the road, said she was now working as a control room operator.

Nqandu read a petition EMS employees had drafted to acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye, who met the group on the steps of the city hall.

Buyeye was accompanied by, among others, council speaker Buyelwa Mafaya and the mayoral committee member for public health, councillor Yolisa Pali.

“SA is faced with the Covid-19 pandemic and EMS is at the forefront of fighting this disease. It is our plea to the mayor to safeguard our lives by ensuring law enforcement is present at all times when EMS workers respond to calls, as we know there are areas where there are escort points and they are the hot spots where these thugs are targeting ambulance people.

EMS staff handed over a memorandum to acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye. This after a staff member was stabbed and robbed at gunpoint in Walmer township
VIOLENCE WORRIES: EMS staff handed over a memorandum to acting mayor Thsonono Buyeye. This after a staff member was stabbed and robbed at gunpoint in Walmer township
Image: Werner Hills

“We would like to extend our regret for not being able to serve our community of Nelson Mandela Bay until our safety can be guaranteed,” she said.

Nqandu added that their petition, handed over at the city hall, came as a result of numerous attacks against emergency medical services workers in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Of the stabbing incident, she said: “That member is in hospital and this left the whole EMS staff traumatised. We are here to plead with the mayor. We have exhausted all avenues.

“They take all our belongings like cellphones and we don’t get paid for those stolen cellphones.”

Buyeye signed the petition and condemned the attacks on the frontline workers.

“We are grateful for what you are doing.

EMS staff drove in convoy to the Port Elizabeth City Hall
HAD ENOUGH; EMS staff drove in convoy to the Port Elizabeth City Hall
Image: Werner Hills

“Most of our clinics are closed in the metro, the EMS cannot work and there are issues of mandate that have to be discussed.

“Without you working our communities are going to suffer even more. We appeal to you to give us a little bit of time so that we can urgently deal with your concerns,” Buyeye said.

He added that the metro urgently needed to meet the security cluster that included the police, the municipal security services and the metro police.

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