Last night while on call I treated rubber bullet injuries.
I treated MANY rubber bullet injuries.
If you thought rubber bullets only cause bruising – well, you’d be wrong. They can penetrate. During my fourth year forensic pathology rotation, we did an autopsy on a man who died due to a rubber bullet embolism.
Thankfully, nothing like that happened last night. Bruises, lacerations, some broken bones; and of course, emotional distress.
But for the better part of the early morning hours, the casualty was swarming with dozens of injured protesters who had been shot at by the riot police.
The atmosphere was surprisingly light. In fact, it reached a stage where it was really just raucous and the nursing staff felt the need to remind our new patients that there were very sick patients around, who needed rest.
Outside, the activity had quietened down, but as the sun rose and the world awoke, it restarted.
There are many reasons to protest in our country, and many of them are legitimate. This one was about service delivery. The crowds were wearing the colours of the ruling party, and the face of the president on their T-shirts. I wondered if the irony was lost on them.
Protesters covered the roads with shards of glass and large boulders. They set tyres alight along the road side. They blocked the entry of staff to the hospital.
Some young interns cut through the undergrowth to enter the hospital through back roads and across fallen fencing.
Some were made to pay “tolls” by entrepreneurs, who, for a fee of R20, would let them pass safely.
Some were threatened. Protesters told doctors that if they tried to pass, they would set their cars alight.
Let us make this abundantly clear:
Citizens were protesting about poor service delivery, by actively preventing doctors and nurses from delivering a service; and actively placing their lives at risk.
This post is not to make a statement about the protests or their legitimacy.
It is not a political statement.
It is not a call for sympathy, or for special treatment.
It is just a post; because you should know what happens.