An attack on medics in Dunoon has jeopardised emergency medical services for the whole township, now declared a red zone by the provincial Health Department.
This means Dunoon residents needing emergency medical care will have to wait for ambulances to first get a police escort. Alternatively they can get someone to rush them to the township’s taxi rank to meet the ambulance there.
The attack on the medics early on Saturday and a land-invasion protest the following day had convinced authorities to make the call, said Robert Daniels, provincial Health Department spokesman for Emergency Medical and Forensic Pathology Services.
“The amount of times EMS is attacked in an area as well as information obtained from SAPS determines a red zone. They are reviewed every 48 hours or so,” he said.
Marietjie Ruster and her Community Medics colleagues had been about to finish their shift in the early hours of Saturday morning when a call came in about a man who had been stabbed in Dunoon.
Six medics arrived at the Curry Road house. Ms Ruster and her colleague, Milan Sosic, stayed outside as it was crowded inside. They were standing next to the emergency service’s two Golfs, bearing the Community Medics logos when two men approached.
“I even greeted one of them and they greeted back,” said Ms Ruster. “All of a sudden, they turned around and one took out a gun while the other took out a knife,” she said.
She didn’t have time to get a good look at the men. She did get a good look at the gun and the knife.
“The only thing I was focused on was the gun and the knife and it was no ordinary knife. It had a bend like a hook at the tip and had teeth-like ridges on the top.”
The muggers took cash, about R200, according to the police, from Ms Ruster. She said they took Mr Sosic’s cellphone and smashed one of the cars’ windows with a brick to grab a jacket.
Police noted that a TomTom GPS had also been reported stolen in the robbery.
“No arrest has been made; the investigation is continuing,” said Milnerton SAPS Captain Nopaya Madyibi.
Lorraine Botha, head of the provincial legislature’s standing committee on community safety, condemned the attack.
“The heartbreaking part here is that the innocent will suffer,” said Ms Botha.
Community Medics spokeswoman, Kim Jurgens, said a lot of people would suffer because of the red zone status that had followed the mugging and protest action.
“I think what we can try to do is to train first aiders in Dunoon because we can’t have a situation where there are no emergency services in the area because of a few.
“Two weeks ago on Parklands Main Road, we were treating a trauma victim and all of a sudden we saw people coming towards us with weapons, but they were trying to hurt the person we were treating. But what happened in Dunoon was a new thing for us, and this will make people wary of helping in the area,” she said.
Mr Daniels said the provincial Health Department was working with SAPS and community safety forums to prevent attacks on EMS staff but those efforts needed community support.
“The department appeals to communities to please respect emergency medical service personnel and allow them to do their work in peace.”