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Ambos suffer holiday spike in assaults

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 31/01/2017

Rushing to save a patient having a heart attack in a Hawke's Bay pub in December, St John's medics instead found themselves caught in a drunken fight and roughed up and assaulted.

In Canterbury in the same month, a separate set of paramedics were kicked in the head by a patient high on drugs, while in Auckland another crew had a gun pulled on them as they helped a domestic assault victim.

The three incidents were among a continued spike in assaults on St John staff in December as 11 sought hospital treatment following serious incidents, up from five in December 2015.

St John New Zealand chief executive Peter Bradley says the increase was sadly predictable because half of all assaults on ambulance medics are alcohol-fuelled.

"There is a predictable increase in abuse and assaults on ambulance officers in the month of December in part due to drinking and substance abuse related to holiday season festivities," he said.

The rise in assaults also came despite St John's December launch of a graphic video campaign aimed at stopping the violence.

With almost 3000 St John staff members reporting they were physically or verbally assaulted on the job in 2016, the campaign used the slogan "Hands off our ambos" to raise awareness of the dangers they face.

Mr Bradley said the video had been a success with 500,000 views, including a large number by its main target audience of 18-to-24-year-old men.

However, he said it would take time for the video's message to take effect, saying a similar campaign in Australia had taken about three to four months to help bring about a reduction in assaults on medics.

"It is too early to see declining numbers, we will only see any trends over several months as we continue to push the message and campaign," he said.


* 2695 incidents of St John crew abuse

* about 70 per cent verbal, 30 per cent verbal and physical abuse

* Six to 10 of the 65 physical assaults reported each month are very serious

* 50 per cent of all abuse incidents involved alcohol or recreational drugs

* 15 per cent of abuse related to patients with mental health issues

* 37 per cent of abuse occurred during the weekend

* Most of abuse and assaults were in Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton and the metropolitan areas.

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