A 21-year-old shopworker who suffered a heart attack while chasing an alleged shoplifter had her heart restarted by an off-duty paramedic.

The woman was saved by the paramedic after she collapsed in a Masterton alleyway yesterday.

Senior Sergeant Carolyn Watson, of Wairarapa, said the woman and another shopworker, 25, had been chasing the accused just metres from the Queen St entrance to Farmers after she made off with a $190 handbag at 9.15am.

Watson said the older worker had managed to grab the handbag before her colleague collapsed in the alley opposite the Farmers’ entrance, next to a Paper Plus store.

The off-duty paramedic immediately began giving CPR aided by a member of the public.

Defibrillator paddles were used to restart the woman’s heart. It is thought she may have been suffering a pre-existing medical condition given the short distance of the chance.

Paramedics arrived and the woman was taken to Wairarapa Hospital’s High Dependency Unit. She was transferred to
Wellington Hospital last night and is in a serious condition, Watson said.

The alleged shoplifter was found a short time later at her house and was to appear in Masterton District Court on one count of shoplifting.

Comment

The risk that pre-existing conditions pose to shop staff involved in loss prevention is not something that can be easily forseen. It appears from the facts given that the staff member may not have been aware of her condition.

There is certainly an onus on employers to do all they can to be aware of any medical conditions that staff may have that may affect them carrying out their duties.

Unfortunately for shop workers, loss prevention work goes with the territory. It is highly stressfull and physically demanding. Certainly the combination of rapid physical exertion and high stress can be lethal to someone with a pre-existing medical condition.

When I think back to my years of loss prevention work in the retail sector, I cringe at the relative lack of training and the situations that staff were asked to get involved in at a moments notice. Even today with more complex training and a greater emphasis on the mental welllbeing of staff I feel that shop work is a dangerous business.

Retail sector employers need to be fullly aware that they are not just employing sales staff and merchandisers. Their staff are often made to be involved in confrontational situations with drug addicts and career criminals that often only the police and social workers encounter. They need to be trained and cared for accordingly.