PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two paramedics were assaulted early Monday while on a call helping a woman with a medical issue, Portland police said.
Robert McDonald, the Multnomah County Operations Manager for AMR, told KOIN 6 News the incident happened around 1:40 a.m. at a MAX stop at North Interstate and Prescott.
The 2 women paramedics responded to a call to help a sick woman. When the paramedics got there, the patient was compliant and agreed to go to the hospital.
But as the paramedics were getting her onto the gurney she changed her mind.
“It’s not entirely uncommon” for patients to change their mind, McDonald said.
As the paramedics were unbuckling her from the gurney, “the woman actually struck one of our medics, unfortunately. Thankfully, the paramedic is going to be OK.”
However there was another person at the scene, a man on a bike, who “had pepper spray or bear spray of some sort, applied that spray directly to the face of the other paramedic.”
That paramedic was irrigated and flushed and taken to the hospital “for general treatment. Pretty standard practice for us.”
Police arrested Tracy Casey, the 38-year-old patient who allegedly punched the paramedic. She was charged with misdemeanor harassment and released on her own recognizance.
Assaulting a paramedic doing their job is a felony in Oregon.
AMR sees increase of assaults over past 3 years
McDonald said these incidents are frustrating. “Anecdotally, these instances are happening more and more and more.”
“We’re a larger city, a city that’s growing. We have a houseless and homeless issue. We’re encountering patients who are increasingly volatile, increasingly violent both verbally and physically,” he said.
They’ve seen an increase in these attacks over the past 3 years. McDonald said this is “a direct result of law enforcement being further and further restrained in how they’re interacting with the behavioral health population in crisis.”
Paramedics carry no weapons to defend themselves and is not something they’re considering, he said.
“The truth of the matter is we’re in the medical field. We’re here to help people.”
AMR is beginning behavioral health training which will “provide verbal de-escalation training and also defensive tactics.”
But in this particular case, paramedics responded to a call for a woman having a medical issue.
“It’s a reminder to everybody out here in the metro area that areas that we live and work in, often times it’s important to be vigilant, to understand and see your surroundings and know that something could be calm at one point and can turn on us very quickly.”
Despite all of this, McDonald said they have a “very committed workforce” who understands “this is what comes with a major EMS system, this type of patient encounter. It happens frequently, not just in Portland. But this is happening in Seattle and Chicago and major metropolitan areas.”