Ambulance officers need protection

By Brendan Manning

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

"Known addresses'' which presented risks to ambulance staff in the past were flagged to dispatchers who would  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  simultaneously respond and they will call us forward once they have ensured that the scene is safe.''

Although dangerous jobs had increased  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.''

Nationally, St John  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.

Rotorua St John staff suffered three accidents last financial year, one while undertaking manual handling activities, one fall/trip/slip and one miscellaneous physical accident.


Mr Gooders said that while all staff were trained in lifting techniques and risks were mitigated where possible, it was a job which 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.''

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 crash on the way to an incident.

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

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 recently.

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 got out of the vehicle to clear the debris and came under fire from "idiots'' throwing rocks.


In the line of fire:

Three accidents in Rotorua in the past financial year, eight in 2010/11, five 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


- Rotorua Daily Post

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