Watch out behind the wheel. A viral video on social media of a frantic man attacking an ambulance driver in the Bronx, New York City shows just how dangerous being an EMT can be. The post has sparked a fierce debate in NYC about how much these first responders should be paid for their time, considering the risks to their health and safety.
A “Combative” Patient
The ambulance was responding to a call for an unconscious man. The EMTs reportedly picked up the man in question, but he became violent once they brought him inside. They treated him with Narcan, which is typically used to prevent opioid overdoses.
“He woke up in the back and became combative,” said Anthony Almojera, lieutenant paramedic and an 18-year veteran of the NY Fire Department. “He actually punched and spat at an EMT in the back of the ambulance who was treating him.”
The man then ran out of the ambulance only to return a few minutes later. The vehicle was stopped in traffic on its way back to the Jacobi Medical Center in Morris Park when a hazy street video shows the man assaulting the ambulance.
The two-minute clip, later posted to Twitter, shows the man beating on the side of the ambulance before attacking the driver. He tries to open the driver’s side door, but it’s locked. He then reaches through the side window as an unidentified paramedic makes a run for it out the back door.
Footage shows the EMT was able to circle back to the ambulance several minutes later, before safely driving away. It seems likely that the man was on opioids. “If that was the case, he was definitely under the influence,” one of the sources said.
Standing Up for Equal Pay
Almojera posted the video to Twitter to address the fact that EMTs generally make less than employees of other 9-1-1-related agencies, including the police and firefighters.
He says EMTs and other medical first responders often deal with combative patients every day. “Over 10 percent of the calls coming in are for psychiatric patients, but this came over as a call of an unconscious male.”
“The city is still reeling from a pandemic, protests, shootings every day, stabbings,” said Almojera, who also serves as the vice president of the Fire Department of New York’s Emergency Medical Services officers’ union. “As this city starts to burn, EMS will be the one that’s going to save it and the mayor right now is sitting on the sidelines playing the fiddle as it burns.”
Almojera directed the message at the Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, as well as some of the leading candidates running to replace him later this year.
EMTs typically face just as many obstacles and risks on the job as other first responders, so why don’t they receive equal pay?
The current starting salary for an EMT is about $33,320 in New York, compared to $42,500 for a freshmen NYPD officer or $45,196 for a city firefighter.
Ambulance drivers and attendants (except EMTs) earn an average of just $30,700 a year, far less than other emergency responders.
It’s also important to note that if an EMT dies on the job, their beneficiaries will only receive three years’ worth of their pay, while the beneficiaries of cops and firefighters receive their full salary in perpetuity, including their health benefits.
Considering the risks that come with driving an ambulance, it might be time to give these hard-working professionals a much-needed raise.