South African EMS providers featured in new documentary

In the first minutes of “Red Zone Paramedics,” paramedic Abdul Waheem Martin says EMS providers are seen as “soft targets” for criminals

By EMS1 Staff

MITCHELLS PLAIN, South Africa — A new documentary highlights the dangers EMS providers in South Africa face.

News24 reported that “Red Zone Paramedics” follows a group of paramedics from Mitchells Plain on New Year’s Eve. Director and former doctor Leanne Brady, who worked at a clinic in South Africa, said she made the film to highlight issues the health system faces.

In the beginning of the documentary, paramedic Abdul Waheem Martin said EMS providers are seen by criminals as “soft targets” and “easy pickings.”

"I greet my family as if I’m going to war,” he said. "Ambulance staff doesn’t fight back, and we’re not carrying any weapons or any form of protection."

The title of the film refers to the “red zone” areas that require EMS providers to be escorted by police as they are too dangerous to enter alone. There are currently 16 of these areas.

Recently, paramedics protested for better protection against violence.

"My belief is that the community offers better protection than [the police],” Western Cape Health EMS Director Shaheem de Vries said. “Having a police officer or security guard on the ambulance also won’t offer adequate protection. A single police officer on an ambulance will be just as vulnerable as the paramedics."

Western Cape Health Department Deputy Director of Communications Mark van der Heever said 12 attacks on EMS providers have occurred in 2018, and he added that response times are delayed because crews must wait for a police escort to take them to the red zones.

Operation Kuseleka, a campaign “to encourage cooperation within broader society to help keep health workers safe,” was launched in 2016.

"A whole-of-society approach can make a difference," Van der Heever said. "The aim is to … try and spread the message that health workers must be respected. The main message is that health workers are servants of the people, who need to have the space and protection to perform their duties.”

Watch a preview for the documentary below.


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