HANDS OFF - ASSAULTS ON AMBULANCE OFFICERS NOT TOLERATED

VICTORIA HAWKINS |

St John has a strong message for the public this festive season – abuse and assaults on ambulance officers will not be tolerated and prosecutions will be sought.

In the last year frontline ambulance officers have been hit, kicked, punched, spat at, and verbally abused nearly 3000 times.  A third of these cases involved physical aggression and violence with up to 10 incidents a month being serious enough for ambulance officers to need hospitalisation and ongoing treatment.

One paramedic had a bow and arrow pointed at his head, another had a knife held to him and told that if the seriously ill, unconscious patient died, so would he. 

“It’s pretty hard to concentrate in those circumstances.” says paramedic Roger Blume.  One patient attacked me, bit me and spat blood into my mouth.”

On another occasion a single crewed ambulance officer was punched, shoved and locked into a room at the rural property she was attending. Fearing for her life, she escaped out a window.  Sadly, nearly every ambulance officer has at least one such tale to tell.

“My ambulance officers have had enough,” says St John Chief Executive Peter Bradley. “We simply won’t enter a dangerous scene, we will retreat and your mate or loved one won’t get the treatment they need while our personal safety is at risk.”

“We recognise that any situation involving emergency services can be stressful and emotions can run high but there is a clear pattern of behaviour here related to alcohol and substance abuse, and largely at weekends.”

Half of all ambulance abuse and assaults over the last year involved alcohol and recreational drug use while 15% could be attributed to mental health issues.  Mostly they occurred in Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton and the metropolitan centres.

St John ambulance officers receive training to help them recognise dangerous situations and have processes to withdraw or not enter until back up arrives.  The organisation is committed to ending the practice of single crewing but says the public needs to do their part, too.

“Ambulance officers are caring, non-judgemental professionals there to help but we ask the public to respect our profession,” says Bradley. 

Simply, ambulance officers can’t save your life if they are trying to protect their own.

-ENDS-

Quick Stats & Demographics:

  • Nearly 3000 crew abuse incidents were reported in the last year 1 Dec 2015 - 30 Nov 2016 NB 2,695 incidents were reported but not all crew abuse incidents were captured pre-March 2015 because St John was transiting to electronic reporting

-       Approx. 70% or 2000 crew abuse incidents were verbal

-       Nearly 30% of incidents involved some form of physical and verbal abuse (while 6% of incidents involved just physical abuse)

-       Of the approx. 65 physical assaults reported per month 6-10 are very serious

  • Half (50%) of all crew abuse incidents involved alcohol or recreational drug abuse
  • 15% of abuse incidents relate to patients with mental health issues
  • Most incidents (37%) of abuse occur during the weekend – Friday 12pm-Sunday 11.59am
  • Most incidents of abuse and assault occur in Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton and the metropolitan areas
  • However rural and remote communities also involve risks (including more single crewing).  The profile of the risk changes and the likelihood is lower but the consequences are higher.

 

Watch the social media video here

PLEASE NOTE: this video features three ambulance officers sharing their real life experiences of assault, and a re-enactment filmed with two paramedics and actors.  St John thanks everyone involved for their contribution.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Victoria Hawkins

St John Media & Public Relations Manager

T 09 526 0528 I X 7877 I F 09 526 0553 | M 021 605 342

E Victoria.Hawkins@stjohn.org.nz

 

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