Winnipeg paramedics say they are increasingly dealing with cases involving violent crime - and they aren't properly equipped to deal with it.
Other Canadian cities, including Toronto, Calgary and even the northern Manitoba city of Thompson provide paramedics with bulletproof vests - and Winnipeg should do the same, said Marc Savard, vice-president of the city's paramedic union.
Winnipeg paramedics are allowed to wear bulletproof vests, but they must provide them themselves.
"The general consensus when the vests first appeared was a lot of the members felt it was overkill. But lately, more and more people are going, 'You know, maybe it wasn't,'" he said.
"You used to have the stabbings on the weekends, now you have the stabbings at all times of day every day, and now you're having the gunshots regularly on the weekend, compared to seven years ago, you didn't hear about the gunshots very often - that was a freak occurrence. Now it's more of a routine occurrence."
Many Winnipeg paramedics have stories about encounters with violent patients, some of them armed, he said.
"I've personally pulled knives off of people. I've pulled a homemade mace, like those medieval ball-and-chain things on the end of a stick - I've pulled one of those off of somebody," he said.
Last week, Savard said, one of the paramedic supervisors was roughed up, which has reopened the issue of paramedic safety.
"Our members believe that their safety and health is something that's important. They all want to go home, the same as anybody else," he said.
Bulletproof vests would better protect paramedics from violent or armed patients, and it could also help in motor-vehicle collisions, the No. 1 cause of death on the job for the profession, Savard said.
Further training on dealing with hostile patients would also be useful, he said.
A spokesperson for the city declined comment, except to say the city is looking into the issue of paramedic safety.