'Nasty' attacks a worry ambulance crews

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 17/03/2014

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An attack on a Palmerston North ambulance crew has raised fears St John officers could be hurt in the line of duty.

The attack happened in the early hours of yesterday morning, when two ambulance crews responded to an emergency callout in central Palmerston North.

One of the people at the scene became abusive toward staff, and shoved an ambulance officer while she was treating a patient in the ambulance, pushing her into a stretcher and causing her to fall.

Another officer who came to her aid was verbally abused, threatened and intimidated. Police were called and the crews were forced to make a hasty exit, taking the patient to Palmerston North Hospital.

The ambulance officer was not hurt, but was badly shaken and had taken time off, said St John central district operations manager Steve Yanko.

It was the second such incident in recent weeks, following on from a callout in Levin where a male ambulance officer was threatened and abused. Mr Yanko said in both cases, the calls were routine emergencies, the same as many they deal with on a regular basis.

"We will not come and put our staff at risk. People need to think about that," he said.

When an ambulance was called to a job in which communications or ambulance staff suspected there might be a risk, police were called to assess the situation first, alerting them when it was safe to proceed.

"We are used to dealing with people in distress or [who are] highly emotional - our staff are highly trained at dealing with that stuff, but this goes beyond that.

"I fear one of my officers is going to get hurt in the line of duty."

In the past three or four years, there had been an increase in "nasty", threatening behaviour and intimidation, and staff should not have to put up with it, he said.

"St John has a zero tolerance policy for staff having to endure such behaviour. They are professional medics trying to do a job and help people, but also mothers and fathers who don't deserve to be treated like this."

Mr Yanko said it was happening as staff were working on patients who needed medical attention, with no thought to what it might mean for them.

"They are endangering people's lives by behaving the way they do."

Mr Yanko said the staff involved in both recent cases were very experienced and "had seen a lot on the job", but they had been left shaken and upset. They had been emotionally traumatised because of the threats made against them, and in some cases, against their families.

Mr Yanko said St John would being doing an internal review, as well as working with police.

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- Manawatu Standard

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