Belfast Telegraph

Those who attack our medics must face jail

Editor's Viewpoint

There is no doubt that the work of ambulance staff is stressful. They are often the first responders to a medical emergency or serious accident, and this constant exposure to life and death in the raw is bound to have a debilitating effect on these frontline workers.

But their job is made even more stressful by the number of attacks on ambulance staff. A female paramedic is the latest member to be injured, ironically by the patient she was trying to treat.

It beggars belief why anyone would assault ambulance crews. Paramedics and their colleagues are there simply to help people in their moment of greatest need. They provide a service for everyone and they are often the first people to be summoned when someone falls seriously ill or is injured.

Yet the number of attacks on staff is running at the rate of five a week. The effect on those assaulted can be long-lasting - a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But it also has an immediate impact on others seeking emergency medical help. When one member is assaulted, the crew of that ambulance may be stood down, reducing the level of cover available from the Ambulance Service.

We know that the Service is already stretched at times, so any reduction in the number of crews available at any moment can have severe repercussions.

Sadly, attacks on ambulance crews or indeed hospital staff are all too prevalent and the courts have been urged to exercise zero tolerance against anyone convicted of such assaults. This is a call which has been heeded, yet even the potential of being jailed does not seem to make the thugs, male and female, think twice. Often they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, but nothing excuses their behaviour.

It is difficult to know how to get the message across to those who would assault people who are coming to their aid. Clearly, if they cannot be persuaded to behave like decent human beings then they should suffer the full wrath of the law.

All assaults are wrong but there is something particularly vile about attacks on those working in the emergency services who do not hesitate to even put themselves in harm's way in order to help those in need.

These personnel must be allowed to go about their vital work without any fear of assault. And the Ambulance Service needs to continue to ensure that staff members receive compassionate help when they are the target of thugs.

Belfast Telegraph

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