Paramedic Mike Duggan describes the problems facing him on a Friday/Saturday in Broad Street.
Introduction by John McDermot.
As residents in Westside I thought you might find this article interesting. When I first saw the headline, as a Westside Business Improvement District Director and Chair of the Nighttime Economy Steering Group, I was initially annoyed at what appeared to be yet another piece of negative publicity focusing on the small minority of problem drinkers. However, knowing Taff as I do, I felt certain that the article would be more balanced than some I’ve read.
On second reading it is a very clear account of the hard work and dedication of the multi-agency teams that operate in Broad Street on evening weekends. I hope you find it interesting and enlightening…..
Paramedic Mike Duggan will be working the historically busy shift which is the last Friday before Christmas
Today is Mad Friday – the day when the emergency services are pushed to their limits by large numbers of people out for Christmas parties.
It’s usually the last working Friday before Christmas, and the most popular night for office parties and for revellers to celebrate the festive season.
It’s also the night when at least 43 per cent more alcohol related incidents are dealt with by A&E on the night.
This year it falls on Friday, December 21 and Paramedic Operational Manager Mike (Taff Duggan) from West Midlands Ambulance Service will be working, as he has done for the last six years.
As operational manager Mike has a dual role in the service working from the more rural Hereford as well as overseeing a team in Broad Street, Birmingham.
The married dad-of-three will begin his 12 hour shift at 4pm on Friday but it’s highly likely he will still be tending to incidents some time after his shift should have ended.
“I enjoy the hustle and bustle and we’ve got each other’s backs”, he told Birmingham Live.
“The nature of the beast is that we are prepared for a Friday night.
“In the ambulance calendar it’s still just another day of the week.
Mike will arrive at Hollymoor Ambulance hub in Northfield at 4pm and check the rapid response vehicle he mans.
There are eight other paramedics and ambulance technicians on the shift.
“I will sort out the vehicles that are available and make sure the other ambulances are ok.
“There may be jobs that I will need to go out on – last week I was sent to a stabbing but it turned out to be a hoax call – and then at 8pm I will head into town.
The Welshman will be in Broad Street where there is an ambulance parked up every Friday and Saturday night to deal with the drunks, brawls, accidents and surprisingly the standard medical emergencies such as strokes and heart attacks.
“It’s good as people can get to us easily and we are integrated into the night time economy.
“We work very closely with the city centre police team and we have good relations with them and door staff who keep an eye on us .
“It’s almost a family, we look out for each other.”
He continued: “There’s violence there and drink but the majority say thank you for being there but it’s a fact of life it goes on.
“But we are there in Broad Street so it frees up other ambulances across the city.”
Merriment will normally be in full flow by now and between 9pm and midnight the ambulance service will be busy.
“Up until 9pm there will be the odd drunk person or maybe a run of the mill job as well as an RTC”, said Mike.
“We get a lot of early starters drinking, those from offices who will have finished work early and started drinking at 3pm.
“So by 9pm they are heavily intoxicated.
“But they will stick it out.
“Some will not normally be drinkers and they can’t handle it.
“I see women fighting and they are the worst.
“There are hair extensions and false nails everywhere!
“Then people will fall over and injure themselves.
“At 12am everyone is in somewhere so there are no fights really. Then at chucking out time, it all starts.”
12am til 3am
There are peaks and troughs during the mania of Mad Friday.
Mike, who is married with two step-sons and a son of six, says there’s a lull until around 1.30am and then the aggression and intoxication levels peaks among revellers..
“There’s definitely aggression. There’s trouble when people are waiting for taxis outside venues.
“Some will want to fight us and others will be fast asleep . There is always abuse. But we don’t just deal with drunks.
If you are taken ill such as a stroke or heart attack then we are still there to deal with it .”
This is the time that the stragglers will be spotted.
Some night spots are still open and it’s often young people who still have the energy to party who will be leaving Broad Street.
“It’s quieter now”, said Mike.
“Hopefully we will have had a chance to grab a sandwich and a hot drink from our thermos flasks. Sometimes it’s 3am and you just don’t realise you’ve not eaten or had a drink.”
It’s an unfortunate truth that the festivities of Mad Friday will bring out the criminal element.
The vulnerable are targeted and they are easy prey.
Mike, who has been in the ambulance service for 13 years says ‘it’s a honeypot’ for criminals.
“There are people who we see all the time on Broad Street.
“They are up there to prey on the vulnerable and they are looking out for those who can’t function and will be trying to steal their phones and purses.
“But the police will tackle this hard.
“There will always be groups hanging around the back streets looking for someone who has had a few drinks, might be on their way to the train station and their guard is down.”
The spectre of Black Mamba is never far from the mind of emergency workers.
In March an alert was issued from Public Health England West Midlandsfollowing the deaths of seven vulnerable people in Birmingham.
It was confirmed that one person died as a result of using a potent batch of synthetic cannabinoids, otherwise known as the former legal high Black Mamba, at a city centre hostel.
Mike explained that the problem was huge.
“In and around New Street you see Mamba.
“It’s mental, it’s scary, he said.
“It is used in the city centre in and around the homeless and it’s an escape, I understand that but it’s scary.
“When we get that call we say we need a ‘mambulance’.
“The person will be fitting or unconscious and you can just tell that they have taken the drug.
“There is that constant element of unpredictability and violence and with this sort of job you know they may cause you harm.”
And what would Mike say to revellers ahead of this Mad Friday?
“We ask people to take it a bit sensible, remind them we are here to help them and ask them not to become violent or aggressive towards us.
“Stay safe and above all enjoy yourselves.”