Tragic story about the killing of Yadira Arroyo, a 44 year-old emergency medical technician with the New York Fire Department by an apparently mentally ill man, Jose Gonzalez. Arroyo was the mother of two sons who were trying to follow her into the profession.
Her death plunged the city’s medical workers into mourning and sent ripples beyond the city. The specter of an intoxicated, mentally ill man turning an ambulance into a weapon was a stark reminder of the random dangers of a profession whose practitioners often get second billing to their firefighter colleagues. And Mr. Gonzalez’s case — the second in recent months in which a man with a history of crime and mental illness killed a public safety worker in New York City — renewed concerns about the shortcomings of the systems that treat violent and vulnerable people.
EMT work is dangerous:
Ms. Arroyo was the eighth emergency medical worker to be killed in the line of duty since 1994; the last was in 2005, when a lieutenant died after surgery to treat a hernia suffered on the job. In 2002, an emergency medical technician died after his ambulance was rammed by a drunken driver.
Robert Ungar, a spokesman for the Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics & Fire Inspectors F.D.N.Y. union, said that more than 100 members a year were assaulted on the job.
This tragedy raises a number of important social policy issues: EMTs, health care workers, law enforcement, fire fighters, people who work with the public are constantly exposed to the dangers of workplace violence and other hazards. The AFL-CIO’s 2016 Death on the Job report summarizes Bureau of Labor Statistics data:
Workplace violence events disproportionately occur among public employees. The incidence rate of injuries caused by workplace violence was over 700% higher for state government
workers (32.1 per 10,000 workers) than the rate for private industry workers (4.0). The incidence rate of violence for local government workers (22.0 per 10,000 workers) was 450% higher than for private industry workers.
This killing also raises the issue of how we treat — or not — mentally ill persons and what kind of funding we’ll see see in the future. The article describes how Gonzales has been in and out of the criminal justice system and mental health institutions. Lack of services is not only affects mentally ill persons, but the safety of the people who care for them.