In a troubling incident, Rhys Morgan, a 32-year-old paramedic serving the community in Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, shared a deeply moving account of his traumatic experience.
As he was attending to a patient at Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales, Rhys suffered an unexpected assault that resulted in a broken wrist and worsened his pre-existing scoliosis condition.
Rhys, a dedicated father of two, joined the Welsh Ambulance Service in 2019 after training as a paramedic at Swansea University.
The assault, which took place in January 2022, not only led to significant physical injuries but also profoundly impacted Rhys’s mental health.
The fallout from this incident forced him into an eight-month hiatus from work and a daily struggle with anxiety that now requires medication.
The incident began in the back of an ambulance, where Rhys was administering pain relief to a patient. The patient struck him, leading to a needle-stick injury.
However, the situation further escalated at the hospital. “She threw herself off the bed, grabbed my wrist, and then pushed me through a door,” Rhys recalled.
This resulted in him falling and injuring his back and wrist; the latter was found to be a fracture the following day.
The repercussions of this assault continue to ripple through Rhys’s life.
Apart from the constant physical pain and anxiety, the episode also curtailed his ability to play with his children and left him feeling isolated at home.
Even upon returning to work, Rhys confessed to a lingering fear. “I feel constantly on edge in case it happens again,” he said.
The perpetrator, Lauren Barnett, 38, of Cardiff, pleaded guilty to two counts of assaulting an emergency worker at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court on May 2, 2023.
She received a four-month prison sentence for Rhys’s assault and a two-month prison sentence for another separate assault on an ambulance worker, both suspended for 12 months.
Escalating Assaults on Ambulance Staff
Alarmingly, Rhys’s ordeal is far from an isolated incident. Data reveals that there were 1,421 assaults on Welsh Ambulance Service staff between January and June 2022.
This represents a worrying 1.8% increase from the 1,396 reported assaults in the same period the previous year.
The majority of these incidents involve verbal abuse, but physical assaults and attacks involving weapons have also been reported.
More than a quarter of these assaults resulted in injuries to staff members, ranging from minor cuts and bruises to severe wounds such as broken bones and head injuries.
Of the cases reported to the police, nearly half led to convictions. However, the most common sentence was a community order, reflecting a need for more severe penalties to act as deterrents.
In response to this escalating issue, the Welsh Ambulance Service launched the #WithUsNotAgainstUs campaign in 2021.
It aims to reduce the number of assaults on emergency workers in Wales and remind the public of the critical role these workers play in our community.
Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, reinforced the organisation’s stand against such incidents. “Such behaviour towards our staff will never be acceptable, and we will always seek prosecution for those that choose to harm our people,” he declared.
He urged the public to work with them, not against them, in their endeavour to save lives.
The Welsh Ambulance Service remains committed to its zero-tolerance policy towards violence and aggression against its staff.
They collaborate closely with the police to investigate all reported assaults and bring perpetrators to justice.
In addition to this, they provide support, counselling, and physiotherapy to staff who have endured such traumatic experiences.
It is crucial for everyone to support the #WithUsNotAgainstUs campaign as a step towards ensuring the safety of our emergency workers.
The valuable services they provide are integral to our community, and they have every right to go home safely at the end of their shift.
Their fight should be for someone’s life, not their own.
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