NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Assaults on EMS are spiking in 2021, according the their union leader who said two of his members were attacked Thursday night.

As CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported, it was caught on video.

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Cellphone video shows a man trying to break into an ambulance in the middle of Pelham Parkway while first responders were trying to pull away.

It happened around 8:30 p.m. Thursday. FDNY said the man was a patient that EMS were called to help 20 minutes earlier.

Paramedics found him unresponsive and treated him in the back of the ambulance, then he woke up and got aggressive.

“He became aggravated and violent. He started punching the EMT in the back. He spit on him,” said FDNY EMS President Oren Barzilay.

The two first responders called police for backup. The FDNY said the patient forced his way out of the ambulance, but then tried to get back in.

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He eventually succeeded. Video shows one EMS responder run out the back.

“They’re shaken up, but they’re OK,” said Barzilay. “These EMTs that you saw last night, they’re working for $17 an hour, risking their life. That’s almost $2 above minimum wage. It is horrific. That’s why thousands of EMTs leave this job over time. It’s a revolving door in the FDNY. Nobody starts here. It’s not worth risking their life.”

The union president said assaults on EMS are on track to double this year, and many incidents go unreported.

There have been 140 incidents reported in 2021 so far, compared to a total of 200 last year.

“I truly think we need to be more appreciative of the health care people that work,” said Norma Iantigua.

EMTs who could not go on camera told CBS2 they’ve also been assaulted by patients or even bystanders while trying to do their job and save lives.

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The union president also said he is monitoring a new pilot program that has EMTs being accompanied by social workers instead of police to mental health calls.

Natalie Duddridge