08/01/2002

Ambulance workers defer strike action for two months

Northern Ireland ambulance workers have taken a vote to defer strike action for two months as a result of growing attacks on paramedics.

Ambulance crew from all over the province met in Londonderry on Tuesday January 8 to discuss attacks on staff, the most of recent of which injured two ambulance crew at the weekend.

In the attack, a female paramedic was hit on the jaw by a brick and a male driver sustained an eye injury when a brick was thrown through the windscreen of their ambulance in north Belfast.

Chairman of Unison’s Ambulance Service branch in Northern Ireland, Paddy Milligan said staff wanted meetings with Stormont health minister Bairbre de Brún to discuss the continuing attacks. He also called for meetings with Police Service Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan to discuss a zero tolerance approach to people who attack health care and emergency service workers.

One option proposed is for the courts to impose tougher sentences on those convicted of assaults on emergency crews.

Speaking after the meeting Mr Milligan said: “We are trying to provide an essential service to the public. Those who continue to attack our staff are preventing us from doing our job and doing a disservice to us and the people who really need us.”

SDLP Chair of the Health Committee Joe Hendron said he “utterly condemned” the attacks on ambulance staff. Speaking on Monday Mr Hendron said: “I am appalled at these latest attacks. I would appeal to public representatives and all those with influence in the community to work to ensure that ambulance staff can serve the community without fearing for their own safety.” (AMcE)

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