Alison Russo-Elling’s death will fuel mass exodus of EMS: union head

The unprovoked stabbing death of veteran FDNY paramedic Alison Russo-Elling will likely further fuel the ongoing exodus of emergency medical technicians and paramedics leaving the job, a top union leader predicted.

“This will definitely change the game now,” said Oren Barzilay, president of Local 2507, the union representing more than 4,100 rank-and-file city EMTs and medics. “We already knew this was a dangerous job, but … this is murder  … and this was outrageous.”

More than 700 new EMTS and paramedics have been hired on average per year the past decade, but staffing levels have barely changed because members are already “fed up” with COVID-19 exposure and other dangers they face on the job with little city support — and quitting in droves, Barzilay said.

As of Sept. 28, there were 199 reported assaults of emergency medical service workers this year, putting the assaults on pace to hit around 250 by the end of 2022, according to data provided by the FDNY.

Lineup at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens where Russo-Elling passed away from her injuries.
Lineup at Mount Sinai Hospital in Queens where Russo-Elling passed away from her injuries.
DANIEL WILLIAM MCKNIGHT

The totals are actually a sharp drop from 333 last year and 290 in 2020 during the height of the pandemic. There were 206 assaults in 2019.

However, Barzilay said Saturday that New Yorkers should take the FDNY numbers with a grain of salt. He said many of his members feel it’s not worth the energy to report being assaulted because no one is listening.

“They don’t want to go through the hassle to do the paperwork,” he said. “The city and state laws have become so weak that everyone is using mental illness as an excuse to get out of jail. I believe our members are just fed up.”

Suspect Peter Zisopoulos is walked from the 114th Police Precinct in Astoria, Queens.
Suspect Peter Zisopoulos is walked from the 114th Police Precinct in Astoria, Queens.
BRIGITTE STELZER
emergency medical service workers mourn russo-elling death
As of Sept. 28, there were 199 reported assaults of emergency medical service workers this year.
Matthew McDermott for NY Post

Peter Zisopoulos, 34, has been charged with murder and also faces a weapon possession charge in connection with the senseless attack on the 61-year-old Russo-Elling, who was stabbed 19 times at 20th Avenue and 41st Street in Astoria around 2:20 p.m. Thursday.

Additional reporting by Susan Edelman.

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