An ambulance crew was assaulted and vehicle damaged as they attended a patient in Cookstown in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The crew were preparing the patient for transport to hospital when they were approached by a passer-by who appeared to be intoxicated. He began by verbally abusing the crew and then physically assaulted the Paramedic, pinning him to a wall before knocking him to the ground where he sustained injuries to the head and right hand.
The other member of the crew secured the patient safely in the ambulance and went to assist his colleague. The assailant turned his attention to the second crew member and came at him with a flurry of punches. While trying to avoid this attack, the second crew member also sustained a head injury and damaged his knee in the fall.
The assailant then left the scene and the crew checked on the patient and began reporting the incident to ambulance control. While this was happening the assailant returned, got into the driver’s seat and attempted to drive the vehicle from the scene. However, due to a security device installed in NIAS vehicles, the engine stopped as soon as the handbrake was released. The vehicle continued to roll down the incline without any effort of the intruder to prevent it from so doing and it was only as a result of the quick actions of the paramedic, who re-applied the handbrake, that the vehicle did not career into a building.
When the vehicle came to a halt, with the nearside mirror rubbing along the gable wall, the assailant then started to kick out at the equipment on the dashboard damaging the Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) screen (through which call details are relayed to crews) and the Sat Nav screen.
He again left the vehicle and the crew took the opportunity to drive from the scene to the nearby PSNI station. The assailant was arrested a short time later.
The crew waited at the PSNI station, to where another crew was despatched from Dungannon to complete the original call. The crew members themselves were taken to Antrim Area Hospital and after treatment were discharged and advised, due to the head injuries, not to drive themselves. Both members of staff are, as a result of this totally unprovoked attack, unfit for duty.
While there is a financial cost (yet to be determined) to replacing this equipment, NIAS is more concerned about the physical injury and emotional distress caused to our staff members. The Trust condemns utterly this latest attack on our crews. It is extremely frightening, in the early hours of the morning, to be faced with such naked aggression and it is not something which anyone should be asked to tolerate – especially ambulance crews who dedicate themselves to saving lives and caring for the vulnerable.
We would encourage that all those who assault ambulance crews performing their duties should face custodial sentences, regardless of excuses proffered. Our staff must feel safe when dealing with patients; their focus must be free to ensure they are providing the highest levels of clinical care to those in need.
In 2014/15 NIAS crews were either verbally or physically assaulted on 251 occasions.