LIMPOPO – 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.
Police in Limpopo has meanwhile launched a massive manhunt for a group of about five armed suspects who broke into the doctors’ residence at Letaba Hospital in Tzaneen and robbed residents of their valuables and cash.
Police said the incident occurred at about 3,15am on Thursday when the robbers broke into the room of a couple who were asleep. They attacked the couple, shot the man and fled with a TV and cellphones.
They proceeded to another residence where another couple was asleep. They shot the male doctor they and assaulted his wife, stabbing her with a sharp object. They escaped with another TV set, cellphones, a laptop, tablet and some money.
The three injured victims were admitted to the hospital where they are recovering.
Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Nneke Ledwaba has established a task team led by a Major General to hunt down the robbers.
“I call on our communities to work with the police to ensure a speedy detection to this heinous crime,” said General Ledwaba.
“We are worried about the attack on the healthcare system because it is very clear that not only doctors but all our other health care professionals are worried now,” said MEC 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 4,30pm 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 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.