St John frontline staff abused and beaten on the job - Newshub reveals

St John is pleading with the public to leave their staff alone as an increasing number have found they are on the receiving end of violent assaults and verbal abuse. 

Newshub can reveal frontline St John staff are the target of at least 50 abusive incidents every week while they're out saving lives.

Paramedics have been beaten unconscious, knocked over and stomped on, spat at and suffered broken limbs.

Some have even been sexually assaulted with inappropriate touching and groping by patients or bystanders.

In 2017 there were 2556 reports of crew abuse. 

In the first 10 weeks of this year there have been more than 534 reports of crew abuse, at least 143 of those reports physical assaults.

Christchurch-based paramedics Alexis Hislop and Kerri Van Irsel are two of many St John staff that have dealt with abuse while on the job.

Ms Hislop told Newshub she spent months off work after being bashed unconscious while walking a patient who had chest pains to an ambulance. 

"I remember something kick my boot and my gut told me something was wrong but from that point I have no recollection of what happened.

"My main injury was a traumatic brain injury so he must have hit me pretty hard in the head."

Her crew partner Kerri Van Irsel, said she struggled to hold back emotions while describing what happened.

"I yelled at [Alexis], he just launched at her throwing her to the ground and viciously punching and attacking her like a shark would its prey," Ms Van Irsel told Newshub.

Ms Hislop says she considered leaving the job but decided she wouldn't let the violence stop her from saving others lives.

"There was one moment when I thought nope, I'm not going back to work, I was not coping at all, I just thought I can't let this one person wreck everything.

 "At the end of the day the job we do is not a game its people lives we're dealing with, we need to be focused and not be looking over our shoulder in fear we're going to be attacked."

Attacks on staff are so regular the day after Newshub spoke to Ms Van Irsel she was caught up in another incident in Christchurch.

On that occasion her colleague was taken to hospital for a check-up after being punched.

St John Districts Operations Manager Doug Gallagher says "This happens right though the country it's not just an Auckland thing it happens in the provinces as well and while there is the physical injuries there is an emotional burden". 

"Harming our staff is simply not acceptable," Mr Gallagher says.