EMS personnel under attack
Emergency personnel are called upon to help people in their greatest time of need. In many instances, they could be the difference between life and death. Despite their dedication to helping strangers and aiming to save as many lives as possible, the risk of finding themselves in life-threatening situations when trying to assist people in need of medical attention is increasing. Attacks on EMS crews has been going on for a long time. Crimes committed against them started increasing a few years ago. At ER24, just one of various emergency medical service companies in the country, there has been about 15 incidents over the past two years. Some of these incidents resulted in crews sustaining serious injuries. Fortunately, there has not been any fatalities at ER24 to date. Types of crimes committed against EMS personnel Crimes against EMS personnel vary. Below is a list of situations that EMS crews in general have found themselves in:
- EMS personnel have been attacked, robbed, hijacked, stabbed and assaulted. These incidents either occurred while staff were responding to an incident, at a scene while attending to a patient or while on their way to or at the hospital for example.
- There have been incidents where criminals have posed as fake patients in order to attack and rob staff.
- Items have been taken/stolen from the ambulance while paramedics were attending to a patient on a scene.
- EMS personnel attend to a number of medical-related calls in crime hotspots. There were instances where paramedics were targeted in these areas.
- EMS personnel have also been seen as the “enemy” at protests and other hostile situations. They have been attacked while trying to attend to patients at some of these incidents.
EMSHE (Emergency Medical Support in Hostile Environments) is an ER24 course designed to teach EMS personnel various skills, such as identifying hostile environments, how to deal with these situations and, if the need arises, how to defend themselves and the patient. How is ER24 trying to safeguard its staff? ER24 launched a course called EMSHE (Emergency Medical Support in Hostile Environments) in 2011. This course is directly targeted at addressing concerns relating to violent crimes committed against EMS personnel. Peter van der Spuy, General Manager of Quality Assurance and Support Services at ER24, said, “The aim of the course, which entails various training exercises, is to teach our staff various skills, such as identifying hostile environments, how to deal with these situations and, if the need arises, how to defend themselves and the patient. We have found that this course has better equipped staff to deal with crimes committed against them (opportunistic crimes while attending to patients or while responding, during protests and other hostile incidents for example). “In 2014 we introduced EMSHE 2, a more advanced course. We have seen a number of successes due to the implementation of EMSHE. In addition, ER24 also has continued education courses and workshops to better equip staff. We pride ourselves in protecting our staff.” ER24 also works closely with the SAPS to ensure that it keeps up to date with trends and hotspots to further improve the safety of staff. “We monitor situations and have a network which helps in identifying potential threats. ER24 works well with various local authorities and we have utilised their services numerous times. We continue to do so,” said Van der Spuy. Dealing with various incidents and scenarios can have a severe and negative impact on EMS personnel. ER24 ensures that staff members have access to trauma support specialists when required. Debriefing takes place as well. Paramedics taught how to safeguard themselves. How crime against EMS personnel affects patients By attacking EMS crews, not only are their lives in danger, but also the lives of those who are in need of medical attention. Vandalising or stealing emergency vehicles means fewer vehicles are available in case of an emergency in the area. This ultimately increases the risk to patients. “There are instances, such as during protests for example, where EMS personnel are either instructed not to enter a hostile area until it is cleared by authorities or are escorted by authorities to gain access to patients. “There are also cases where the patient has to be brought out to EMS personnel. With this said, we also have processes in place to determine which crews, based on their experience and training, will go into these areas should the need arise,” said Van der Spuy. Public’s help needed By keeping quiet, it will eventually affect you and your loved ones. “Community members and leaders as well as other role players have a vital role to play in protecting the very same people who are there to take care of them. Criminals are putting your lives in danger and comprising your health. We urge the public to report criminals to the police,” said Van der Spuy. In addition, people are urged not to purchase any medical equipment or medical stock sold at second-hand shops or from medical companies, pharmacies or people who are not registered to provide such services. Also read: https://www.er24.co.za/blog/er24-medic-stabbed-and-assaulted/ https://www.er24.co.za/blog/er24-paramedic-attacked-in-alexandra/ https://www.er24.co.za/blog/er24-strongly-condemns-the-attack-on-paramedics/ Listen: https://soundcloud.com/er24ems/emshe-attacks-on-paramedics