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Paramedics brace for silly season

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Being physically assaulted is the last thing a paramedic should have to expect when out on a life-saving job.

But that reality is always in the back of Nigel Watson’s mind, a Wairarapa paramedic for Wellington Free Ambulance, who has been attacked by a patient.

And the likelihood of being attacked on the job is set to rise with the onset of the holiday season.

In the past year, Wellington Free Ambulance staff reported 47 incidents of aggression and violence in the Wellington region, including Wairarapa.

Incidents ranged from threatening behaviour to pushing, kicking, and hitting.

Mr Watson, who is the acting field operations manager for Wellington and Wairarapa, has answered the call to duty for Wellington Free Ambulance for the past five years.
He knows the dangers of the job first-hand after he was assaulted in Wellington by a patient who was “under the influence of alcohol and potentially illicit drugs”.

He said he knew of staff who had been assaulted in Wairarapa too.

“It definitely makes you think about what’s around the corner.”

Mr Watson said assaults on paramedics would increase over Christmas because there was more alcohol, more drugs, more people out enjoying the festive season, and a heightened financial pressure on people.

The dangers in the line of duty also extend to other emergency services according to Wairarapa Police Senior Sergeant Mike Sutton.

“Police face risk every day and have a number of tactical options to use depending on the situation they are in.”

He said assaults and threats against staff were not tolerated and that any incidents would be followed up with “appropriate enforcement in Court”.

A spokesperson for Wellington Free Ambulance said they would “not tolerate assaults on our staff and will pursue offenders through the courts where it occurs”.

“We don’t want to see any of our staff hurt,” they said.

“If it means the difference between responding staff to an unsafe situation or not we will always err on the side of caution and wait for Police to ensure the scene is safe for our staff.”

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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