‘Is going home in one piece too much to ask?’  – Paramedic steps down after assault

A PARAMEDIC who was verbally abused and spat at as she tried to help a patient has decided to leave her job.

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Julie Owen, a Welsh Ambulance Service Paramedic in Colwyn Bay, said the attack by a patient’s daughter has left her ‘hyper aware’ of threats.

While Julie has undergone counselling, she says she is no longer interested in the job she once loved.

 

The 56-year-old said: “I’ve suffered violence and aggression of many kinds over my 20-year career, and I guess this is the last one I’m prepared to deal with.

“They build up and up, and one day just become too much.

“I feared for my life that night, and the impact on me was something I didn’t expect.

“Is going home in one piece too much to ask?”

 

Julie and her colleague Emma Griffiths, an Emergency Medical Technician, were responding to a medical emergency in Shotton when the patient’s daughter became aggressive.

 

Emma, 49, who also has 20 years’ service, said: “We could hear shouting and screaming before we’d even entered the property.

“As we tried to treat the patient, her daughter took exception to the fact we’d asked her not to light a cigarette around the oxygen cylinder, which is flammable.

“At one point she tried to block the doorway with her hand, and when I asked her to move it, she started shouting about how useless we were and called me a fat, blonde bimbo.

“She was jumping up and down like a lunatic and was unstoppable.

“I’ve been verbally abused many times over my career, but this was my first physical assault.

“It shook me up because we were there to help.

“Assault should never be part of the job.”

 

Julie said: “She was verbally abusive throughout, and when we went to get pain relief for her mum, she became physically aggressive too.

“She threw glass at us, spat at us and came right up to our faces trying to punch us.”

 

Julie and Emma called for police back-up and the patient’s daughter was arrested.

Julie said: “Thank goodness the police responded so quickly and came to our aid.

“It’s unacceptable to assault any emergency worker – they’re there to help.

 

“I love my job as a paramedic but since the incident have lost interest in it and am hyper aware of what I could be facing in the community.

 

“To that end, I’ve decided to hang up my boots and secure another role in the service which means I’ll have less patient-facing contact.

“It’s a very sad way for me to end my career as a road paramedic.”

On 29 February 2024 at Mold Magistrates’ Court, Kirsty Walker, 33, of North Street, Shotton, was jailed for 20 weeks having previously admitted three offences of assaulting an emergency worker and one of using threatening or abusive words or behaviour.

 

She was also ordered to pay £50 in compensation to each of the victims.

To her colleagues in the ambulance service, Julie had this message.

“Violence and aggression should never be part of the job,” she said.

 

“Don’t just put up with it because one day it’ll come back and bite you, just like it did me.

“Staff should report any form of violence, even if it’s just a verbal threat, because if it goes unreported and no action is taken, your colleagues could find themselves in the same situation days later – or worse.”

Jason Killens, Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service, said: “It’s heartbreaking to hear that Julie, who will have helped thousands of patients during her 20-year career, has decided to step down from her patient-facing role.

“What’s also frustrating is that Julie and Emma were there to help this person’s mother, so to obstruct them in the course of that and exhibit such obnoxious behaviour just beggars belief.

“Violence and aggression against emergency workers is unacceptable and we will always seek prosecution for those that choose to harm our people.

“Ambulance workers are there to help people, but they can’t fight for someone’s life if they’re fighting for their own.”

Wesley Williams, a District Inspector at North Wales Police, added: “Every single day, emergency service workers are often dealing with challenging situations and putting themselves in harm’s way to keep the public safe and to save lives.

“Being assaulted is not and should never be regarded as ‘part of the job’.

“Assault is a traumatic offence that causes great distress to anyone, and it is no different when the victim is an emergency worker.

“It is wholly unacceptable for them to be threatened, attacked, verbally abused or spat at – and those responsible should face the full force of the law.”

The Welsh Ambulance Service is a member of the NHS Wales Anti-Violence Collaborative, which was set up to improve the reporting of incidents and better support victims through the prosecution process.

Jonathan Webb, Chair of the Collaborative, which includes NHS Wales, Welsh police forces, the Crown Prosecution Service, Welsh Government and staff support organisations, said: “Any form of abuse or violence against emergency workers is unacceptable.

“The partners of the Anti-Violence Collaborative are actively working on initiatives to reduce violence and aggression encountered by colleagues.”

The Welsh Ambulance Service is also running a campaign to reduce the number of assaults on emergency workers in Wales.

Pledge your support on social media using the hashtag #WithUsNotAgainstUs or #GydaNiNidYnEinHerbyn.

 

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