If police had realized that a patient was attacking an Austin medic inside an ambulance a few weeks ago, Austin-Travis County EMS union president Selena Xie believes officers would’ve arrived sooner than the eight minutes it took them to get there.
“The patient took off all his restraints — his seat belts — and then just started pounding on the medic,” giving him a black eye and a busted lip, Xie said.
The incident illustrates the need for a 911 dispatch code called “medic in distress,” Xie contended during Austin’s Public Safety Commission meeting Tuesday.
“I do believe that if the officers saw that it was ‘medic is down,’ we’d receive a different kind of response,” she said.
Xie’s proposal comes in the wake of survey results, released earlier this summer, that showed that 63% of Austin medics were physically assaulted more than once on the job in the past two years.
The data was alarming, Xie said.
“Every time this event happens, I am very concerned that one of our medics is going to be severely hurt,” she said.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Austin police officials said they are discussing the possibility of creating this code.
“We’re committed to working with EMS — with the leadership and the association. If we need to make changes, we’ll do that immediately,” Assistant Police Chief Troy Gay said.
Commissioner Meghan Hollis pointed out that medics don’t have the same tools police officers have.
“They don’t have the weapons to protect themselves,” Hollis said. “They’re not wearing vests. They’re almost at a higher risk.”
Austin medics who know self-defense came to a recent EMS union meeting to teach other medics some techniques they can employ in the back of an ambulance, Xie said. A few medics also recently traveled to Dallas to learn self-defense.
“We have quarterly continuing education, and I really hope that the (Austin-Travis County EMS) department invites these medics who did this training to teach self-defense to everybody in the department — not just those who choose to come to our meetings,” she said.
In June, an EMS union member created a form medics can use to track these assaults, Xie said. In the incident where a medic received a black eye, he reported the attack to his supervisor, but EMS Chief Ernesto Rodriguez wasn’t aware of the incident until the union spoke to him about it, Xie said.
“There has to be a way that our chief is aware of these assaults happening,” Xie said.