Detroit medics are 'terrified' after stabbing attack

A Detroit EMS union steward says $12/hour is inadequate for the risks of violence medics encounter on every shift

DETROIT — Detroit EMS providers are hesitant to go to work after the attack on two of their colleagues last week.

"It’s terrifying. We have a lot of people that are absolutely terrified," Jeff Guaglio, a steward from Detroit’s paramedic and EMT union, told CBS Detroit.

Guaglio said EMS providers are not sufficiently trained to deal with dangerous situations. Also, they are not paid enough to be risking their lives.

"Twelve dollars an hour is not adequate pay for somebody to come out here and put their life on the line and provide care to the citizens of the city," Guaglio said.

The stabbing incident brought the risks related to providing emergency care under the spotlight, but, Guaglio said, medics encounter violent residents almost every time they’re called on a run.

"I would say on average, as far as violence scenes where things could escalate to a physical confrontation, that’s a nightly incident," Guaglio said.

Detroit EMS providers are not adequately trained to mitigate and handle situations, and to use psychology to read body language to understand when a situation is about to escalate to physical violence, according to Guaglio.

The union brought the problem to the city’s attention many times, Guaglio said, "Unfortunately it was going to take something of this magnitude for them to finally take notice.”

Having police escort medics isn’t a realistic idea, Guaglio said, but arming EMS providers would be a good route.

"I do fully believe that some sort of nonlethal, intermediary weapons are definitely necessary," he said. "Personally, I think that pepper spray would be highly effective in maintaining situations and I think that would stop these incidents from escalating to the point that it got to yesterday. But above that — we need the training that goes along with it. The education is the key."

Interim Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said he was planning to meet with Police Chief James Craig to discuss de-escalating and defense tactic training to prevent another incident like this from happening in the future.

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