Two KwaZulu-Natal paramedics are lucky to be alive after a fake maternity emergency call turned into a fight for their lives in Amatikwe, Inanda, north of Durban.
The Department of Health released details of the incident, with Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu calling it "sad and barbaric".
"We are extremely shocked and, quite frankly, outraged by what has happened. It is inconceivable that someone sat down and planned to lure our paramedics so that he could rob and wound them in this manner."
The paramedics were ambushed after receiving a fake emergency call around 03:00 on Wednesday. They arrived at the "emergency" and were met by a guide who was meant to give them directions to the scene.
He led them to a dirt road, where he produced a firearm and demanded their valuables.
"During a scuffle, he fired shots from the back of the ambulance. While the crew members were trying to flee from the moving vehicle, the male crew member was shot in the back, while his female colleague sustained a gunshot wound to the wrist. At this stage, it appears that only a cellphone was stolen," the department said.
The paramedics managed to flag down a patrolling police van and alerted other EMS paramedics, who rushed their injured colleagues to hospital.
'What will happen if we should stop responding?'
Simelane-Zulu called on communities to work with law enforcement authorities to bring the culprits to book.
"That this person decided to take advantage of the caring and responsive nature of our paramedics - who attend to emergencies regardless of where the call comes from or what time - is truly sad and nothing short of barbaric."
She said the paramedics could have been killed.
"These are breadwinners, with people who depend on them for survival. When incidents such as these occur, you really start to ask yourself questions. How can you tell if a call is about a real emergency? And what will happen if we stop responding to emergency calls at night altogether? People will die, because this is an essential service.
"[We must] identify and isolate these unscrupulous criminals, so that they can be removed once and for all from our society."