Luyanda Longwe, Stakeholder Manager: Office of the MMC for Public Safety
City of Johannesburg – 2 July 2019
The City of Johannesburg wishes to clarify comments made on the halting of service delivery by City ambulances to Cosmo City after an attack on its paramedics last week.
On the 28th of June 2019, the City’s Emergency Management Services (EMS) ambulance crew was attacked on a call to Cosmo City, west of Johannesburg. When the crew arrived at the scene and attempted to provide medical treatment to the injured person, the ambulance crew was confronted by a mob. The patient was allegedly injured as a result of a mob justice assault.
The mob turned on the EMS ambulance crew when they saw the crew trying to “rescue” the injured person whom they regard as the suspect. The crew was able to retreat from the scene unharmed but were traumatised. The City’s new ambulance, delivered just eight days prior, was damaged in the process.
The EMS spokesperson communicated the incident at the time on social media and other media enquiries. However, the temporary withdrawal of the ambulance service to Cosmo City was misinterpreted as a “shutdown” of emergency medical rescue services to the residents of Cosmo City. This is entirely incorrect.
There is no “shutdown” of ambulance service to Cosmo City or anywhere in the City. In light of the attack on the ambulance crew at Cosmo City, we are now screening calls coming from these hotspots.
If the call is to attend to a volatile situation or suspicious caller that cannot give us a precise location or description of the emergency, we will deploy the necessary resources to be escorted by the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) and/or SAPS. Each call will be assessed individually accordingly to merits, type and level of emergency. We want to ensure both the safety of our residents and our EMS members.
We will not risk the safety of our EMS members in favour of possible fake calls and volatile situations without police escort.
In a separate incident, members of the Jabulani Fire Station were attacked in the early hours of 1 July and a criminal case has been opened.
In light of the recent spike of attacks on EMS members which are also seen in other parts of the country, the Department of Public Safety has activated a contingency plan to deal with the attacks on its firefighters/ EMT and paramedics, and some of the measures have already been in place over the past year;
1. The Department has installed panic buttons on City’s ambulances;
2. EMS members were provided with self-defence training and pepper spray as a preferred device to deter attackers;
3. JMPD to escort ambulances and fire engines to emergency calls from volatile areas and hotspots identified;
4. Emergency calls from identified hotpots will be screened to reduce fake calls where there is a suspicion of potential risk; and,
5. Engaging community leaders and elders to help to understand the challenges faced by firefighters/ EMT and paramedics and also to call on members of the community to desist from such attacks.
The City also dismissed allegations that it cares more about its ambulances than its firefighters/EMT and paramedics.
It with regret that we note such unfounded allegation, such comment is not only unconstructive but reeks of opportunism.
It is EMS’ legislative and moral mandate to attend and treat any injured person whether such person is a victim of a motor vehicle accident or suspect of a crime.
These servicemen and women of EMS are trained professionals and highly valued employees of the City. We as the community must provide them with a safe environment so they can carry out their duties. We also owe it to our children to protect the City’s assets such as ambulances and fire engines.
When EMS members or emergency vehicles are attacked or damaged, it inevitably results in service delivery taking a knock.
Whilst the City will ensure that service levels are not impacted, we do expect possible delays in despatching ambulances to Cosmo City due to the precautionary measures and the damaged ambulance having gone for repairs.