The head of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has repeated his concerns about the impact of attacks on staff after two crews were taken out of action after they were injured during a violent outburst by a patient.
Staff were injured while responding to a 999 call concerning a young male under the influence of drugs in Newtownards on Saturday night and were unable to continue with the rest of their shift.
While on the way to the Ulster Hospital’s emergency department, the youth attempted to assault the paramedic who was with him in the back of the ambulance, injuring his back and shoulder.
Then when they arrived at the hospital, another crew came to assist their colleagues with the patient who became violent, kicking out and injuring another two crew members, according to NIAS.
It eventually took six people, including PSNI and South Eastern Trust security staff, to restrain him before he was taken into the department.
The level of cover in the North Down Area was compromised as a result, reducing from three crews to just one serving the area.
NIAS Chief Executive, Michael Bloomfield, said he is appalled staff have been subjected to attacks for the second consecutive weekend.
"These patients include those who may have suffered cardiac arrest or been involved in serious Road Traffic Collisions and who have families who need our skills and support," Mr Bloomfield said.
"We cannot provide our service if staff are taken off shift as a result of injuries sustained from assaults, and once again ambulance services in this area were considerably reduced last night as a result of this attack.
"My immediate concern is for those staff who were the victims of last night's incident. While their injuries are not serious, I am concerned about the long term emotional impact."
He continued: "While we will do all we can, as an organisation, to support them in their recovery, the solution to this lies within society as a whole.
"These attacks are totally unacceptable and, while thankful for their support to date, I would appeal to parents, guardians, community leaders and others with influence to redouble their efforts in helping us protect our staff through engaging others on this issue.
"Once again, I would also reiterate our view that those who commit such attacks should face the full rigour of the law, including custodial sentences."