07/01/2002

Ambulance staff threaten strike action

Northern Ireland Ambulance Service staff are threatening to take strike action over a series of serious attacks on emergency personnel attending incidents in the province.

The latest attack left a female paramedic with face injuries when a brick was thrown through the windscreen off an ambulance in north Belfast. The driver of the vehicle was also injured in the attack. Both are said to have expressed their wish to return to work despite the incident.

Ambulance Service staff said that following the attacks they could not rule out industrial action. A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service said that they were engaged in talks with unions to try to ensure that staff worked in an environment that was as safe as possible.

Health service unions have renewed appeals for an end to a growing number of attacks on emergency services, both ambulance, and accident and emergency staff.

The Northern Ireland Fire Service have also reported an increase in the number and severity of attacks on personnel attending incidents, particularly during sectarian unrest.

In the Limestone Road area where the ambulance was attacked there has been continuing friction between the two communities along the interface area. Condemning the attacks, health committee chairman Joe Hendron appealed 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".

Police are investigating the incident which took place on Saturday, January 5, on the Limestone Road. (SP)

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