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Danger on the job

Ambulance ready to be dispatched to those in need in Wairarapa. PHOTO/FILE

Ambulance paramedics faced abuse 66 times in 18 months
Bill seeking to protect responders

Wellington Free Ambulance paramedic staff based in Wairarapa reported 66 incidences of verbal and physical abuse in the 18 months from July 2018 to December 2019.

Information made public from WFA showed Wairarapa staff attended about 16 incidents in the region each day and reported three to four assaults a month.

During the 18 months paramedics attended 8760 incidents in Wairarapa.

The number of reported abuse cases account for less than one per cent of cases attended.

This percentage was similar to other parts of the region.

WFA said reporting of incidents was dependent on staff tolerance.

WFA Wairarapa manager Jake Carlson said: “We have an amazing relationship with our community and we work on a foundation of trust”.

“Staff safety is paramount and we expect our staff to work in a safe environment.

“While assaults don’t happen often, when they do, they can have a huge impact on my team.

“We want to be here for our community, but we can’t do that when our safety is at risk.”

WFA executive director of healthcare services Kate Worthington said over the past five years WFA had experienced a 300 per cent increase in mental health related calls.

Of the reported cases of assault in the Wellington region during this time, 16 per cent specifically detailed mental health as a trigger of aggression.

“We are currently investigating new models of care, working with emergency service and health partners, to ensure these vulnerable people are linked into appropriate and timely community care.”

Worthington said WFA supported the direction of the First Responders and Prison Officers Protection Bill to ensure adequate safety and support of staff.

The bill seeks to create a new offence in the Crimes Act 1961 with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months’ imprisonment for intentionally injuring a first responder or prison officer.

It has passed its first reading and is before the select committee.

Worthington said WFA welcomed safe and appropriate legal mechanisms to keep ambulance officers and first responders safe while ensuring not to stigmatise vulnerable groups who need their help and support.

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