Provinces beef up security as healthcare workers are robbed, assaulted, threatened

Health Minister Joe Phaahla said there were more than 100 attacks on scores of hospital and clinic staff since January 2022.

Health Minister Joe Phaahla said there were more than 100 attacks on scores of hospital and clinic staff since January 2022.

Published Dec 6, 2023


Provincial Health Departments are beefing up security at health facilities as attacks on hospital and clinic staff are increasing in parts of the country.

Replying to parliamentary questions from DA MP Michele Clarke, Health Minister Joe Phaahla said there were more than 100 attacks on scores of hospital and clinic staff since January 2022, but this excluded the Western Cape.

Phaahla said there were 14 incidents in the Eastern Cape.

His reply showed that staff were prone to being threatened with guns and being robbed at gunpoint.

In one incident at the Nomangesi clinic at Kariega, a security guard was attacked by four thugs.

“He ran into the clinic and locked himself in. The thugs took the exterior security gate with them,” Phaahla said.

Affected staff were counselled at wellness clinics and security was enhanced at facilities, the minister said.

In the Free State, there was one incident reported when two warring groups went to a clinic and wanted to attack a member of the other group.

“The department increased the security personnel and instructed the district to utilise the hybrid security model by appointing a private security company for the clinic to work on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, supplementing the departmental security service,” Phaahla said.

Gauteng reported eight cases involving patients assaulting nurses and security guards.

In one incident at Tembisa Hospital, a police officer shot a nursing assistant.

“The boyfriend entered the facility with a police vehicle and flashing lights. A case was opened at the local police station.”

Phaahla said the security policy and access control policy were distributed across Gauteng health facilities.

“The department is also conducting security assessments on the current status of CCTV cameras.

“The Gauteng Department of Health is in the process to procure the new security contract for all the department of health facilities with the hybrid model to address all security concerns in the province,” he said.

In KwaZulu-Natal, there were more than 21 incidents which included sexual assault, physical assault and attacks on nurses by patients.

Phaahla’s reply showed that in one incident, at Greys Hospita,l a female nurse was assaulted by her estranged husband.

“Security was called to assist but the perpetrator was armed and issued threats verbally.

“A court order was obtained and her husband can only access the hospital property as a patient.”

The KwaZulu-Natal Health Department has introduced various security measures at its health facilities.

These include increasing security in wards, reducing the number of visitors per patient, increased security patrols in casualty, especially during weekends and after hours, and installing live CCTV cameras to specific wards.

In Limpopo, about 18 incidents were reported where nurses and security were assaulted by patients and also robbed by criminals.

At Pietersburg Hospital, Nehawu members threatened members of the management with violence and disrupted services.

Phaahla said criminal cases were opened in the incidents of assault against nurses and security guards.

Security was increased in vulnerable areas and counselling arranged for the affected persons.

“Threats and disruptions of services by organised labour are handled through negotiations. Where there is no agreement, court interdicts are applied for, as was the case with Pietersburg Hospital.”

Mpumalanga recorded six incidents involving attacks on staff members and robbery at the health facilities and cellphones with computers being stolen, among others.

Phaahla said the provincial department, already at some facilities, was in the process of improving physical and electronic security.

“Among these measures are increasing security officers, installed walkthrough metal detectors and a bullet proof glass on guard houses,” he said.

The Northern Cape recorded about 12 cases involving threats and assault to nurses and security guards.

In one incident a patient’s father assaulted a security guard.

The North West has to date recorded more than 30 incidents with patients assaulting nurses and security guards as well as doctors being threatened by patients and the robbing of healthcare workers.

There were also incidents where members of the community or gangsters threatened healthcare workers when demanding some patients to be treated first.

Phaahla said the provincial departments have increased security at the health facilities at both the Northern Cape and North West.

Cape Times