Hospital safety huge concern

Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein. Photo: Pierce van Heerden

An attempted armed robbery at the Universitas Academic Hospital in Bloemfontein has raised concerns about safety at Free State Hospitals. Two security personnel were allegedly assaulted by armed men in an attempted ATM robbery at Universitas last week.

According to reports, suspects with concealed faces were able to enter the hospital without being detected. Lesley Masekoaone, one of the victims who is a security supervisor, told Bloemfontein Courant that surveillance cameras at the health-care facility have not been operational for over a year.

“At Universitas Hospital we only have torches. We are basically security officers by name only because we do not have anything. The cameras are damaged, which I have reported many times. IT came and said that we need a whole new system installed,” said Masekoa.

He was in a control room when men walked in and demanded them to lie on the ground at around 22:45 last week Wednesday. Masekoa stated that the men had 9-mm guns and had covered their faces with white fabric. “They slapped my colleague and I before they told us to lie down on the floor and held us hostage,” he said.

“They broke the top of the machine and removed its screen but they were not able to remove the safe. I think they thought they would be able to take it with them, but it was too heavy for them to pick up. They ran away with nothing,” explained Masekoa.

The ATM that the alleged assailants damaged is currently out of service. PHOTO: PIERCE VAN HEERDEN

One medical technologist at the hospital who would not like to be named, stated that two laptops were stolen at the facility last week. The practitioner stated that although he does not feel unsafe at the hospital the surveillance system needs to be improved as there are currently no cameras at the ground level of the building. “There are enough security members here but when it comes to an armed robbery, what can they do? They are normal civilians,” he said.

However, Department of Health spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi, said cameras at Universitas do work but cannot guarantee total security on the premises. “Cameras on their own cannot provide adequate security because when it comes to physical security, no matter how many people you have, absolute security can never be guaranteed,” Mvambi said.

He stated that the main priority of hospitals is to provide health care. “We are dependent on the goodwill of our citizens to cooperate with us and see institutions of health as institutions where people get healthcare instead of being targets for attacks.”

A case of malicious damage to property has been opened after the ATM was damaged. “The ATM is situated and installed at the corridor between Netcare and Universitas Academic Hospital. The ATM is not for Universitas hospital but for Netcare,” said Mvambi.

He stated that although cameras are situated at critical points, the surveillance camera at the hospital’s main entrance does not reflect at the ATM.

Police spokesperson, Thabo Covane, said no arrests have been made so far but police are still on the lookout for the three suspects. – Nomaqhawe Mtebele