Bay medics facing more risky jobs

By Brendan Manning


Bay of Plenty St John staff are being held back from attending patients while they wait for police protection due to the volatile nature of some ambulance callouts.


"Known addresses" that presented risks to ambulance staff in the past were flagged to dispatchers who would also alert police before St John staff attended, Bay of Plenty district operations manager Jeremy Gooders said.


"We go to a destination that's considered a safe distance from the location - around the corner, out of sight and the police are simultaneously responded and they will call us forward once they have ensured that the scene is safe."


Although dangerous jobs had escalated over recent years, they were still a minority, Mr Gooders said.


"The vast majority of people are very pleased to see us and [are] very well behaved."


Western Bay of Plenty St John staff suffered 17 accidents in the past financial year - nine while undertaking manual handling activities, three falls/trips/slips, one biological and one ergonomic.


Biological accidents are caused by blood and other body fluids coming into contact with ambulance officers.


Mr Gooders said while all staff were trained in lifting techniques and risks were mitigated where possible, it was a job that required patients to be manually handled.


"We do have some lifting injuries from staff - backs, shoulders, that type of thing.


Personal protection training was integral to staff in threatening, volatile situations, he said.


"We attend volatile situations, highly emotional scenes with people under the influence of drugs and alcohol.


"There's potentially a risk to our staff from those because people can become unpredictable, at times irrational."


Nationally, St John Ambulance staff were involved in 570 accidents in the last financial year - 21 of which were classified as "serious harm".


There were 34 reported assaults on ambulance staff during the same period.


St John spokeswoman Sarah Martin said the last ambulance officer killed in the line of duty was a volunteer officer who died in a car accident on the way to an incident.


It was not common for police to accompany ambulance staff to callouts, however they were in attendance when prisoners were treated, she said.


Ambulance staff in Northland are considering the need for police escorts after an ambulance and crew were pelted with rocks by "low-lifes".


Northland St John boss Tony Devanney said his staff feared heading to Moerewa, after a crew was targeted last Thursday.


The ambulance was returning to Kerikeri about 4am when it had to stop in Moerewa as large rocks had been placed on the road. Ambulance officers left the vehicle to clear the debris and came under fire from "idiots" throwing rocks.


In the line of fire

- 17 accidents in Western Bay of Plenty in the past financial year, 15 in 2010/11, four in 2009/10.

- 570 accidents nationally in the 2011/12 financial year, 533 in 2010/11, 517 in 2009/10.

- 34 assaults in 2011/12, 31 in 2010/11, 56 in 2009/10.

 


ACC Claims for the past three financial years

- 2011 financial year: 188 claims, 1883 days off work, total cost: $590,774

- 2010: 209 claims, 2213 days off work, total cost: $533,022

- 2009: 234 claims, 898 days off work, total cost: $352,697

 


Total cost of ambulance injuries for past three financial years: $1,476,493

 

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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