Facing Danger

September 6, 2023

July:AugMag-FacingDanger-1.jpgThe stabbing of an EMT outside Mount Sinai West hospital in July underscores the dangers faced by emergency medical workers every day. According to the FDNY, more than 120 EMT workers have been attacked this year. Unfortunately, violence against healthcare workers is all too common. Our 1199 EMS members and their supporters

are now actively calling on management and fellow New York City emergency responders to help put more safety measures in place.

“We are constantly in harm’s way on every job we go on because every job is different,” says Fernando Correa, a paramedic at Mount Sinai for 18 years. “If we have an emotionally disturbed patient, things can change in a heartbeat. They can go from being compliant to combative and attacking you.” When it comes to safety measures, Correa recommends bulletproof and stab- proof vests. “The vests can help minimize the damage or injury, and we don’t have them available to us. I bought my own vest because I’m a single father raising two kids and I want to make sure I get home to them.”

Pedro Echevarria, an EMT for 25 years and 1199 Delegate, knows that attacks on first responders are all too common. “Unfortunately, this is a situation that happens more often than many people realize. We get assaulted on
the scene, in the back of the ambulance. I’ve seen many people get stabbed, punched, kicked, and spat it.” Echevarria wants better communication with the NYPD and greater assistance to ensure the safety of medical workers. “With mental illness in the city at an all-time high, [our patients sometimes] take advantage of the people who are coming to help them. We want to do our jobs, but we also want to be safe and go home to our families.”

In response to the recent violent incident, Victoria Koukoulas, a 9-year Paramedic, who has been
at Mt. Sinai Hospital for the past 4 years, wrote a statement asking for a plan to prevent EMS violence, as well as trauma debriefing opportunities. “I find myself fearful for my life every time I put on my uniform and head to work,” she says. “EMS is an unpredictable job, and we are often the first to respond in emergencies with unpredictable circumstances. I’ve experienced firsthand the emotional toll that difficult assignments and traumatic events can take on us
and was mandated to attend a debriefing after a traumatic call. I found solace in discussing the event with my colleagues and a trained professional. By [management] prioritizing our safety and well- being we can continue to serve the public with the utmost dedication and effectiveness.”

New York must do all it can to ensure that these frontline heroes are able to do their jobs free from the threat of physical harm. All workers have a right to a safe workplace, especially in healthcare where every second counts to save a life.