Belfast Telegraph

Thug bites 999 paramedic who tried to help him

By David Young

An ambulance paramedic was yesterday badly bitten by a patient he was trying to assist.

The attack happened in Ballycastle in the early hours after an emergency crew was called to a house following reports that a man in his late teens was unconscious.

When the 999 crew arrived the patient became aggressive and bit the paramedic, the Ambulance Service said.

Police were called to the scene and the assailant was taken into custody.

The paramedic was assessed at Causeway Hospital and was unable to continue with his shift.

A spokesman for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said: "This incident once again highlights the dangers faced by our crews when attending calls.

"The paramedic has more than 20 years' service dedicated to the care of those who need our help.

"It is disgraceful that we have witnessed yet another incident of this type.

"In condemning these incidents we try to explain the impacts, physical and emotional, of this type of trauma on our staff.

"We have no hesitation in, once again, calling for this individual to face the full rigour of the law. These attacks are unnecessary and we must continue to educate the public of the dangers they pose, both to our staff and the communities they serve.

"We recognise that we have the support of the vast majority of the public in attempting to consign these attacks to history, but if people refuse to listen, we would like to see custodial sentences as a deterrent."

The attack left Ballycastle without local cover, added the spokesman.

With the seaside town's only crew out of action, residents were forced to rely on the neighbouring stations of Ballymoney and Coleraine for an emergency response service.

The PSNI said: "Shortly after 1.45am police received a report that a man had assaulted Northern Ireland Ambulance Service staff. An 18-year-old male was arrested on suspicion of disorderly behaviour, assault and assault on police following an incident in Ballycastle during the early hours of this morning, Thursday March 3.

"The male was later released on police bail pending further enquiries."

North Antrim MLA Daithi McKay, who sits on the Stormont health committee, condemned the attack.

"This is an appalling incident," he said. "Our paramedics and frontline NHS staff need to be protected from these kinds of attack. People will be appalled to hear of a situation like this in which an Ambulance Service worker was attacked as he carried out his duty, caring for a man who had called the ambulance out to help him."

Attacks on ambulance crew members remain worryingly common.

Despite a number of NIAS education schemes in the community to deter further incidents, there is still a difficulty in ensuring crews can work without the fear of being attacked.

During last year alone more than 250 verbal and physical assaults were recorded against NIAS workers.

In one period in 2014, six vehicles were attacked within a period of just 10 days.

In December experienced paramedic Heather Sharpe told the Belfast Telegraph she thought she would be killed in a terrifying encounter with an 18-stone thug after answering a 999 call.

She described how the attack in Co Antrim left her afraid, vulnerable and unable to work. Remarkably, the culprit never faced punishment.

Heather - who has 20 years experience in the Ambulance Service - believes mandatory prison sentences are needed to tackle the problem of attacks on emergency staff.

She said: "Anybody who assaults any paramedic in the line of duty should be dealt with severely by the courts. I think it needs to be a custodial sentence."

Belfast Telegraph


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