Cape Town: In the early hours of Wednesday morning, March 25, 2015, three paramedics were held at gunpoint while trying to assist a five-year-old child, writes Hilary Phillips.
Shortly after midnight, ER24 dispatched an ambulance and rapid response vehicle to a house in Eastridge, Khayelitsha, where a little girl was having seizures.
While the paramedics were in the ambulance stabilising the patient, the doors were flung open and two gunmen demanded their cell phones and wallets. A third demanded the ignition key to the rapid response vehicle parked next to the ambulance. Using this to open the vehicle, he accidentally activated the emergency siren. The suspects then fled the scene with the cell phones, wallets and a GPS device from the ambulance.
The incident was one of at least seven to have occurred in Mitchell’s Plain this year.
ER24 offers an unbranded national database where all such incidents can be logged by members of any South African emergency service, whether local authority or privately owned (photo: Werner Veermakt)
Mitchell’s Plain Community Policing Forum spokesperson, Abie Isaacs, said the Forum fears paramedics and other emergency workers may refuse to operate in the area following a string of attacks on emergency service personnel. “We don’t want to see ourselves as ‘Mitchell’s Plain, where the emergency services decide not to come to come because of such incidents,’” Isaacs said.
ER 24 Communications Manager Werner Vermaak reported: “Throughout the hold-up the paramedics continued working on the child and then transported her to Khayelitsha District Hospital.
“During the incident the child’s mother was also in the ambulance, but fortunately no one was injured.”
A case of armed robbery was opened at the Khayelitsha Police Station. According to the paramedics, the gunmen were all believed to be in their twenties.
“This is a good moment to remind all South African emergency service workers that ER24 has implemented and offers an online database designed to record such incidents countrywide,” said Vermaak.
“Available to all local authority or private company emergency service employees, the database is where those involved are encouraged to log the details of any incident resulting in injury, or loss of life or property as a result of crime.”
In other words, ER24 offers an unbranded national database where all such incidents can be logged by members of any South African emergency service, whether local authority or privately owned.
This is a major step forward in gathering data on national, provincial and city crime incidents affecting all South African emergency service workers.
Asked how ER24 encourages the countrywide collection of data, Vermaak explained: “We cannot
force anyone to log it on the database, but it is mandatory for ER24 staff to.
“And if we hear of a crime incident involving emergency services other than ours, we do our best to make contact and log their data.
“The idea is not only to capture data across our own platforms, we hope other services will adopt and become accustomed to doing this too, which is why the facility is neither branded nor hosted on an ER24 server.”