From innocent first responders to targets of violence: Attacks on paramedics

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By Kotie Geldenhuys;
Photos provided by JP von Benecke

“I don’t know what to say. Around 01:00 this morning another ambulance was hijacked and the crew is missing again … We responded … there was no sign of the crew, no idea where they went. It was just an ambulance standing idling in the middle of a road. Found the address they were sent to – false call again. Anyway, so we start to search but that Saulsville/Atteridgeville area is so big … and busy towards Pelindaba. It is 03:39, almost four hours later … They were held hostage at gunpoint, cellphones and wallets taken and they were tied up … I don’t know what to say to our crews, I don’t know what to say to the public. Do you deserve an ambulance service? I think so. Finished, I am just finished.” These heartfelt words were shared by JP von Benecke, Deputy Director of Special Operations at Gauteng Emergency Medical Services (GEMS), in a moving Facebook video posted in July 2023, after two paramedics had been kidnapped in Atteridgeville, Pretoria, just a day after a similar incident happened in Nellmapius, Mamelodi. These saints with sirens, dressed in green uniforms, put their lives on the line to rush to help community members in need, often the poorest of the poor. But sadly, they are being challenged by an alarming increase in hijackings, assaults and robberies targeting these dedicated individuals during their lifesaving missions. These crimes which our selfless Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel face across the country raise serious concerns about their safety and well-being.


[This is only an extract of an article that is published in Servamus: July 2024. This article is available for purchase.]

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