Belfast Telegraph

Attacks must stop, says Altnagelvin medic pushed out of ambulance by violent patient

By Leona O'Neill

A Londonderry paramedic has said violence against medical staff needs to stop after he was attacked by a patient and pushed violently out of the back doors of his ambulance, onto the road.

Michael McConnell (51), from the Waterside, was injured when a patient he had transferred to Altnagelvin Hospital's Accident and Emergency Department in the early hours of Monday morning lunged at him in the back of the vehicle.

"We had taken a patient to Altnagelvin Hospital A&E who had then refused to get out of the ambulance," he said.

"We asked him several times to leave the vehicle and we told him that we would have to call the police if he didn't get out.

"He stood up in the back of the ambulance. He threw himself on the ground and grabbed both my legs and started pushing me up against a cupboard.

"I struggled to get away from him and was then shoved out of the back of the ambulance onto the road outside. I hurt my arm and my shoulder badly.

"The patient closed the door of the ambulance behind me.

"There was a policeman in A&E and my crew mate went to get him.

"He came out to speak to him and he started wrestling with the policeman and they ended up on the ground.

"It took three of us to restrain him and keep him there until the police came and arrested him."

Michael had to attend A&E himself for treatment which meant fewer ambulance staff on duty to deal with patients that night. He said it was the second time he had been assaulted in seven months.

"On St Patrick's Day, a 15-year-old we were treating spat in my mouth and my face," he said.

"He became very aggressive, was punching the ambulance and trying to punch me. Because he spat in my mouth I had to go through blood tests.

"At A&E at night now it seems that there are nearly more police officers than there are patients because of the amount of violent people who are being brought in. Drugs seem to be everywhere now. Prescription drugs seems to be the in-thing.

"But there is simply no excuse - be that alcohol, drugs, whatever - for attacking medical staff."

"We should be able to do our job without being attacked or fear of being attacked. It's a terrible situation."

Michael's wife Donna is a former senior staff nurse in surgery at Altnagelvin. She was also attacked and injured by a patient several years ago.

She said she and her children worry about her husband when he's at work.

"Society seems to have gone completely bonkers. You don't even feel safe to carry out your job. It's crazy," she said.

"Michael and his colleagues going out on an emergency call should not have to stop and think if they are going to be safe, if they are going to come home.

"As I sat in A&E with my husband on Monday morning, I felt very angry.

"It is just a matter of time before someone is badly hurt or worse. Enough is enough."

NI Ambulance Service (NIAS) spokesman John McPoland said that attacks on crews continue at a rate of more than eight a week.

"This situation is totally unacceptable," he commented.

"NIAS will continue to call for the full rigour of the law to be applied in instances where evidence against an assailant is clear and indisputable.

"We are heartened at some of the recent sentences that have been passed and hope that those who find themselves before the court on such charges will face the real prospect of custodial sentences."

A PSNI spokesperson said a 36-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of common assault, disorderly behaviour, assault on police and criminal damage.

Belfast Telegraph

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