POLOKWANE, November 22 – An armed robbery at the Letaba Hospital residence that saw three doctors shot and injured by men who entered the doctors’ residence in the early hours of Thursday morning has impacted badly on the province, jeopardising 24-hour health care.
“The healthcare system in Limpopo is under attack and crime intelligence needs to be placed in all health institutions,” said Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba, who visited the hospital shortly after the shooting.
Three practitioners – two women and a man – were shot by armed robbers who held them up and robbed them at Letaba Regional Hospital outside Tzaneen.
“We are worried about the attack on the health care system because it is very clear that not only doctors but all our other health care professionals are worried now,” said Ramathuba.
“Our clinics cannot run 24 hours anymore. You come and open a clinic to run 24 hours, but there are burglaries the following day and nurses are traumatised. Then they will ask you ‘MEC must we continue saving lives while our lives are in danger?’ This is a very serious threat.
“Unless as a country you come and support us in making sure that we deal with this issue we are not going to have clinics running 24 hours,” said Ramathuba, explaining that staff members had regularly been declining to work after hours due to safety issues.
“The doctors are saying to me ‘enough is enough’, and they are threating to stop providing any services from 4:30 pm because they don’t want to stay in an environment where they are not protected,” she said.
Ramathuba said steps would be taken to put increased security measures in place at the health facilities.
“We are discussing this with the State Security Agency, and the issue is now at the level of both the Minister of Health and Minister of Police. We have done a lot as a province, and we have engaged state security agency to say that we need criminal intelligence in our hospitals and clinics.”
The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) has called for the maximisation of security levels in the health facilities.
“We call upon the MEC of Health in Limpopo to ensure that the security service providers in public health care institutions are capable of delivering maximum protection to both employees and patients at all health facilities and properties,” the organisation said in a statement.
“We also urge the SAPS to ensure citizens that there will be a carefully considered plan to ensure safety and security in all facilities,” said the Treatment Action Campaign in Limpopo.
The three injured doctors were admitted to the hospital and were visited by Ramathuba on Thursday morning, just hours after they were shot.