An increase in attacks on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel has been noted, and the provincial Department of Health believes that this spike may be linked to a high volume of hoax calls being made to lure EMS staff to areas to ambush them. This concern has been voiced by female EMS staff in particular.
Speaking to IOL, Deputy Director of Communications to the Department, Mark van der Heever, said these hoax calls are being taken very seriously.
The latest of the three hoax calls EMS received were from Blue Downs, Lavender Hill and Delft.
“In all these incidents we were not aware it was a hoax call and went out to the area. Once we arrived in the streets and stopped at the address indicated criminals robbed us of our personal items,” a female EMS staff member said. “Our greatest fear is what is going to happen if criminals decide one day that they want more than our personal items and decide to rape one of us.”
Van der Heever, however, does not believe that the hoax calls are yet widespread. “A number of measures have been implemented in response. We do not believe that hoax calls are a widely-used practice. It may be a factor in one or two incidents but our investigations have not supported the notion that is a widely-used strategy,” he said. “We have also found that people are calling us not to make use of us as an emergency service, but because they need to get from one place to another.”
This has resulted in an abuse of EMS resources, and may be detrimental to patients who require urgent medical attention. Van der Heever added that EMS crews are now also being extra vigilant, but are naturally less aware of their surroundings when administering patient care.