Impact of recent unrests and looting
Ironically, we started using the word ‘unprecedented’, an adjective meaning “never done or known before” from around March last year describing the COVID-19 pandemic circumstances and effects. But within the last week and a half, this description has become even more general in describing the happenings in mainly two provinces in South Africa that had to deal with unprecedented unrest and looting. For some this was surreal as we watched the incidents unfold and for others, it was like a war zone.
Speaking to Robert McKenzie from KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, he described the “war zone” they experienced. “In responding to incidents, our biggest challenge was safety on scene and getting to and from these incidents safely,” said McKenzie.” An ambulance was set alight and burnt at Howick on Sunday night, 11 July 2021. The ambulance was called out to what turned out to be a hoax emergency and was ambushed and set alight. “The crew managed to escape unharmed. However, the ambulance was completely destroyed. One of our response vehicles was also stoned on the same evening in Marriannhill.”
Private ambulance service paramedics were left traumatised after their vehicle came under attack while they were rushing to attend to a medical emergency in Verulam, north of Durban, on Monday. Gareth Naidoo, spokesperson for KZN VIP Medical, said the critically ill patient was not attended to because of the attack. “The paramedics were en route to the Verulam area to attend to a critically ill patient. While travelling on the R102 they were stoned from dense bush. They were highly traumatised. They called and requested to park the van because they are afraid to work the rest of the shift because of the hostile situation in the area.”
Verulam and Phoenix, where the ambulance service is based, have been under siege by protesters since Sunday night. “We have to cancel our ambulance service attending to medical emergencies in and around the area. There is no access to medical treatment for these sick patients,” he said.
Fire and Rescue International have requested the relevant fire departments to provide us with an overview of the response and challenges faced and will share these as we receive the information.
KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC calls for protection of nurses, doctors and ambulance staff as hospitals and clinics battle amid widespread protests
KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane has urged the public to protect and enable healthcare professionals to get to work including nurses, doctors and ambulance operators, so that they can continue with the critical task of saving people’s lives. This comes as healthcare facilities across the province buckle under pressure due to widespread community protests which have resulted in the blockading of key arterial routes, making public mobility difficult.
A number of hospitals, Community Health Centres and clinics across KwaZulu-Natal have been operating on skeletal staff, with many nurses, doctors, allied health workers and support staff unable to report for work due to the blockades, as well as lack of public transport.
Many who were working during the night shift last night also could not go home.
Patients who were due to undergo elective surgery and those with minor ailments have been advised not to come to hospitals, until the situation returns to normal.
In some instances, vehicles were barred from delivering much-needed oxygen that was intended for use by patients battling COVID-19 and other ailments.
The protests have all but put a stop to the province’s all-important COVID-19 vaccination programme.
In Howick, an ambulance was burnt last night, while another was attacked with rocks in Marriannhill.
There have also been reports of delays with the collection of mortal remains, as Forensic Pathology Services battle to reach scenes where people have passed away. They are also unable to collect bodies from Primary Health Care facilities (clinics) that do not have mortuaries.
The unrest has also affected the functioning of the Department’s key 24-hour Provincial Health Operations Centre, which serves as a link between it and the public. However, the public can still contact the Department by calling 031 480 3718.
Reacting to the situation, KZN Health MEC Ms Nomagugu Simelane said, “As Government does its best to deal with this situation, we are pleading with each and every individual to create a situation where healthcare workers are not impeded from getting to work. Those who are protesting need to realise that by blocking health workers or ambulances from doing their job, they could be placing the lives of their own relatives in jeopardy.”
“There are scores of people in our hospitals who are fighting for their lives, who need to be attended to by our doctors and nurses as a matter of urgency. Some are in critical condition, in ICU, while others are in labour and need to go into theatre. “We really cannot afford a situation where lives are lost just because our healthcare workers cannot get to work. All over the world, in every crisis situation, there must always be a way to accommodate and insulate health professionals. We are therefore pleading with the protesters and the general public at large not to interfere with health workers.”
Source: KZN Department of Health
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Quote of the week
"The biggest tragedy of what is happening, is not that it’s happening. It is that through it all, the great country of South Africa will learn nothing. And we won’t change anything. That’s the biggest tragedy of this whole situation." ~ Media and political consultant, Makhosini Mgitywa
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