During one week, the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service reported that its life-saving crews were attacked or abused 35 times.
There were a total of 44 attacks during May alone, with five attacks being reported over a single 24-hour period.
Crews have been spat at, and equipment urinated on as emergency ambulance crews continue to risk their own lives during the pandemic.
Crews also reported that patients threatened to infect them with deadly COVID-19 intentionally after the ambulance service responded to their calls for help.
Control room staff have also been subjected to disgusting abuse by callers who have been abusing the 999 system.
Private contractors, working on before of NIAS, have also been abused while responding to emergency and non-emergency calls.
A spokesperson for the service reported that many of the individuals responsible for the attacks on its staff had been under the influence of drink/drugs.
The outrageous attacks and treatment of crews by abusive patients are known to have a lasting psychological impact beyond any physical injuries, particularly at a time when frontline staff are having to cope with the dangers posed by COVID-19.
Michael Bloomfield, Chief Executive of the NI Ambulance Service, said:
“These attacks can have a lasting emotional and psychological impact on our staff when physical wounds may have healed much quicker.
“Our staff deserve better, and we will continue to support them through measures available to us, including immediate management and peer support which will continue for as long as necessary.
“The impact of these attacks go far beyond the staff directly affected.
“They often result in our levels of cover being reduced, as staff are unable to continue with their duties. Affected areas may be left vulnerable due to longer response times as crews attend from neighbouring stations.
“This could have potentially fatal consequences for those who urgently need of our service.
“Our message is quite simply that these attacks must stop and that those who continue to assault our staff must become accountable to the full rigour of the law.”
Health Minister Robin Swann said he was outraged by the “thuggery” at the centre of such attacks.
“I am absolutely appalled at these assaults,” he said.
“Ambulance staff have put themselves on the line for the rest of us time and time again during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We owe a massive debt of gratitude to them and to all their colleagues across the health and social care frontline.
“It is beyond belief that they should be on the receiving end of this kind of thuggery.”
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