HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two Honolulu ambulance workers are recovering after a homeless woman they were trying to help allegedly turned on them.
The incident happened Thursday afternoon, when medics responded to Aloha Tower for reports of an unresponsive woman near Pier 6.
First responders found Bobbi Ballhorn and loaded her into an ambulance.
As the rescue crew was preparing to head to the hospital, police sources say the 46-year-old suddenly attacked an EMT ― sinking her teeth into her arm and leaving her bloody.
When a paramedic jumped in to help, she suffered a busted lip after being punched in the face.
Christopher Sloman, the acting chief of Honolulu Emergency Services, said his personnel are the victims of violence almost every day. They’re swung and pushed around.
“It’s concerning. We need to protect our people,” he said.
While most of the incidents go unreported, last year at least eight cases led to medical treatment and or worker’s compensation claims.
All of those incidents had one thing in common: The suspect was either intoxicated or suffering from mental illness.
“These issues: mental illness and substance abuse. They’ve always been there. They’re just more prominent right now,” Sloman said.
The violence is prompting conversations about what can be done to keep EMS crews safer.
One option being discussed is the use of body cameras.
“We have to make sure whatever we do is compliant with privacy laws," Sloman said.
"And then there’s the other side of it ― where people might not be as forthcoming with a healthcare provider if they’re on camera.”
Sloman says the agency is also looking at whether crews should be equipped with bulletproof vests.
“The trend with what we’re seeing with violence not only locally but nationally as well is maybe this is something we really have to consider,” he said.
“Have we gotten to the point that EMS providers and fire responders need that type of protection?”
Thursday’s incident at Pier 6 not only put medics in danger, there were repercussions for the public too.
After the attack, the ambulance had to be taken out of service nearly seven hours. That meant people in distress likely had to wait a little longer for help.