Two paramedics were assaulted by a patient in the back of an ambulance en route to hospital, according the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and the union representing paramedics.

It happened around 3:50 a.m. Friday near Mountain Avenue and Airlies Street.

Paramedics had responded to a call at around 3:10 a.m. at another location because a patient was experiencing “a reduced level of consciousness.” The team was transporting her to Seven Oaks Hospital when she suddenly became aggressive and attacked the paramedic riding in the back. When the second paramedic tried to help, they were also assaulted. The paramedics called 911, and restrained the patient until police arrived and arrested the 22-year-old woman for assault.

“They’re extremely upset at the incident,” said Ryan Woiden, the president of MGEU local 911, which represents 350 of Winnipeg’s paramedics. “Their physical injuries will heal but they’re going to take some time.”

“Any time you have an assault in the back of an ambulance in such a confined space, it adds a lot of problems for the paramedics attempting to get out of that situation,” said Woiden.

Woiden believes Winnipeg’s policies surrounding paramedic safety need to be reviewed and paramedics should be trained in self-defense, specifically in how to protect themselves when they encounter conflict in a confined space like the back of an ambulance.

“We don’t receive any self-defense or defense training in confined spaces or other right now. Our current policy is that we’re supposed to extricate ourselves from the dangerous situation. But as I said when you’re in the back of an ambulance it becomes very difficult to do at times.”

Chief John Lane with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Services said the incident is very concerning. He points out staff go to scenes to help people, not to be hurt by people.

While Lane believes safety of WPFS personnel is one of the highest priorities, he questions if self-defense is the best policy.

“A much more appropriate role is prevention in the first place and secondly de-escalation to try and calm the situation without physical contact as much as possible,” Lane said.

When asked if WFPS’ policies would be reviewed, Lane said there is regular dialogue at health and safety committees and labour management meetings and he expects this to be brought up.