A task team was established to come up with a robust safety and security plan following more than 350 assaults and over 170 incidents of threatening behaviour against health-care workers, including EMS staff in the Western Cape in less than two years.
The Western Cape Department of Health and Wellness confirmed the shocking figures of reported assault and threatening behaviour towards its staff, for the period January 1, 2022 to November 19, 2023 with 353 assaults and 177 incidents of threatening behaviour recorded.
This comes as Health Minister Joe Phaahla in a recent parliamentary reply confirmed reports of attacks on scores of hospital and clinic staff since January 2022, but this excluded the Western Cape. Incidents included a security guard attacked by a group of criminals, sexual assault, and a female nurse assaulted by her estranged husband among others.
“In response to staff safety concerns, the Department of Health and Wellness has implemented comprehensive interventions to enhance staff safety. An internal safety campaign has been initiated to raise awareness and foster discussions on prioritising staff safety. A dedicated task team has developed and put into action a robust safety and security framework, integrating interventions to address potential threats.
“Major Incident Medical Management and Support (MIMMS) Plans have been adopted in health facilities to effectively respond to incidents like violence and protests, supported by an online real-time reporting system.
“Additionally, approximately 47 security systems, including CCTV cameras, have been installed at health facilities across the Western Cape since 2021 to bolster security measures. A groundbreaking training programme, in collaboration with UCT has been established for security responders to handle patient incidents,” the department said.
The department has also signed a standard operating procedure (SOP) with the SAPS provincial commissioner to improve co-ordination in responding to security incidents.
They said a new policy prohibiting firearms in health facilities had been implemented in September this year and collaboration with the City Law Enforcement Directorate had seen increased visibility and visitation to 27 high-risk facilities.
Hospersa, a union of more than 74 000 members, majority being health workers in both public and private health sectors, said: “We have been receiving complaints from our members across different provinces.
These strings of violent attacks range from kidnapping, robbery at gunpoint, hijacking of official vehicles, many of which occurred within the health-care facilities.”