Ambulance officers increasingly attacked on the job

Ambulance officers are being hit, kicked, punched, spat at and verbally abused on the job at an alarming rate, St John says.

Chief executive Peter Bradley says there have been nearly 3000 incidents where staff have been abused this year.

"We're seeing an increasing trend. We're seeing more and more incidents of assault."

The charity is warning Kiwis it won't tolerate assaults and will be seeking prosecutions.

"My staff go out there day after day to provide great care to patients and save lives and when they get spat at and kicked it's really not acceptable," Mr Bradley says.

Ambulance officer David Game says he had his back broken by a patient he was treating. He knelt down to attend to an apparently unconscious man in west Auckland, "and the next thing I knew I'd been kicked and I was on the ground with the gentleman that had just kicked me saying 'I'm going to stab you, I'm going to kill you'".

The incident happened some years ago, but still affects him.

"I still can't sleep on my right-hand side. It's an injury that's ongoing."

In another case a paramedic had a bow and arrow pointed at his head. Another had a knife held to him and was told that if the unconscious patient died, so would he.

Mr Bradley says ambulance officers travelling alone is a challenge.

One paramedic says a patient attacked him, bit him and spat blood into his mouth.

A single-crewed ambulance officer feared for her life when she was punched and locked in a room at a property she attended. She managed to escape out a window.

Nearly 3000 crew abuse incidents were reported in the last year.

  • About 70 percent of crew abuse incidents were verbal.
  • Nearly a third of incidents involved some form of physical and verbal abuse.
  • Of the approximately 65 physical assaults reported each month, six to 10 are very serious.
  • Half of all crew abuse incidents involved alcohol or recreational drug abuse.
  • Most incidents of abuse occur during the weekend.

"We're in discussions with the Government right now about ending single-crewing. Thirty-five thousand times a year ambulances are dispatched with only one person in them, and we're one of the few countries in the world where this happens."

He says St John has never been funded to double-crew all ambulances, but hopes this will change in the next year or so.

"We want to see two people in every ambulance in New Zealand and we're committed to making that happen."

Mr Game says his message to the public is one, simple word: "respect."

"Respect us so that we can help you when you need that help."