Arrests made in Blackheath paramedic attack

A group of men with knives, attacked and robbed Western Cape Emergency Medical Services paramedics in the early hours of Monday morning. The attack occured as they were lifting a patient into the ambulance in Nooiensfontein Roadin in Blackheath.

One paramedic was stabbed with a broken bottle.

Ambulance Chief Pumzile Papu joins Kieno Kammies on the line.

I just want to thank the community, because without them, we would not have made the arrest of the two out of the three.

Pumzile Papu, EMS Ambulance Chief

Papu says the community was at first reluctant to help, but once they understood that these type of attacks would cause delays in EMS response times, they stepped up.

He says he hopes the third suspect will be arrested soon.

It is a person that is known to the community also.

Pumzile Papu, EMS Ambulance Chief

Safety of paramedics is a concern for the EMS. They need the co operation of communities and the help of police and the Community Policing Forums.

We cannot do this thing alone...but there is no place we will not go. Sometimes this means a police escort...but in the areas that are regarded as red, there will be a delay, but it does not mean we will not come.

Pumzile Papu, EMS Ambulance Chief

On Monday, despite the attack, EMS returned two hours later to collect the patient, though Papu says she was very afraid, and it took hours to convince her she needed to see a doctor.

Listen to the interview with Pumzile Papu below:

Earlier this week, after the attack, John Maytham spoke to EMS spokesperson in the Western Cape, Robert Daniels.

daniels said paramedics are soft targets. They are not trained to deal with attacks. They are particularly vulnerable, often driving around at all hours of the morning to help patients.

They are usually crimes of opportunity. They see the ambulance and try and get to the people.

Robert Daniels, EMS spokesperson

The team were robbed of wallets, cellphones and the ambulance was stripped of it's communication equipment.

Daniels says frequency of attacks has escalated.

There have been about four over the past three weeks, so this is not looking good, it is getting worse.

Robert Daniels, EMS spokesperson

It is happening in informal settlements, where people do not have access to public transport, and it is where people need the EMS services the most.

Daniels says EMS staff have the right to refuse to go into areas considered dangerous, but this seldom happens. He says their work is a calling rather than a job.

When you do a job like this, it is because you really want to do it, you want to help people. It is in your nature, it is what you want to do.

Robert Daniels, EMS spokesperson

Listen to the interview with W Cape EMS Robert Daniels below:

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