Editor's Viewpoint: We all have a duty to back ambulance staff
The attack on a paramedic at the weekend is further evidence of the unwarranted violence directed at ambulance staff by some members of the public.
The man, who has worked for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service for more than 40 years, was attacked outside a hospital.
He suffered injuries to his head, arms and body. There were three attacks on staff last weekend, and two people required hospital treatment.
It is deeply disturbing to be told by a spokesman for the Ambulance Service that there are over 400 assaults on staff each year, which is more than one a day.
The physical abuse is bad enough, but last Friday evening, two emergency medical dispatchers and one duty control manager were abused on the phone.
It beggars belief that some people treat ambulance paramedics and their background support staff in this way.
These are the first people to whom we turn when we need medical help, and there is a great sense of relief when they respond, and bring with them reassurance and comfort.
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People in need of medical help are already suffering stress, and it is unthinkable that the work of the ambulance staff can be made more difficult by the loutish minority who attack them physically and verbally.
It is important, however, to keep these examples of bad behaviour in a proper context. A survey published last week by the Department of Health revealed that 98 per cent of the 7,000 patients questioned said that ambulance staff behaved in a polite and courteous manner. The same number also confirmed that the ambulance staff also showed them care and compassion.
However, there is no excuse for the minority of people who treat ambulance crews and their support staff badly.
The NIAS chief executive, Michael Bloomfield, has pointed out that when nasty incidents occur, the level of ambulance cover is reduced, and members of the public may need to wait longer for help.
There is no doubt that the vast majority of people will respond positively to his appeal for their support in trying to bring such assaults to an end.
It is incumbent on everyone to support the Ambulance Service in dealing with unsocial behaviour. There really must be zero tolerance of such attacks, and stiffer penalties should he handed down to those found guilty of such appalling acts.