25 July 2014

22 : Paramedic Assaults - Something Blue

Most Trusted Profession in Jeopardy

from NSW Ambulance Anti-Violence to Paramedic Program

The high incidence of assaults on paramedics has caused the NSW Ambulance Service to launch an anti-violence campaign using posters designed to show the human side to paramedics. Their campaign reminds offenders what constitutes assault : 

Assault is legally defined as any contact or threat 
of contact by a person to another, which instils 
immediate fear of violence. The threat must be 
made in such a way that the person making the 
threat has the ability to carry it out at the time it 
was made. For example, if a patient or bystander 
threatens to punch a paramedic, which causes 
fear in the paramedic, and the person who made 
the threat can physically carry it out, that would 
constitute an assault.

A recent 12 month jail sentence given to a 36 year old woman who assaulted a male paramedic in NSW, is evidence that there is zero tolerance to assaults on paramedics. It is the beginning of a long process to ensure that prosecutions to crimes against paramedics are being taken seriously.   zero-tolerance

South Australia has recently followed the lead of NSW Ambulance Service in commencing a new awareness campaign to prevent violence against paramedics. The statistics of assaults against SA Ambulance Service paramedics has nearly doubled in the short space of two years. Despite legislation changes in 2009, which increased the assault charge against paramedics to the charge of aggravated assault, to date there have been a very disappointing number of cases that have led to prosecution.  increase-in-assaults-campaign

In November last year I was assaulted by a female patient whilst at work, the first time I have been physically assaulted in the 15 years I have worked as a paramedic. This aggravated assault case is still slowly working its way through the court system and will hopefully end with a significant sentence that reflects the serious nature of the offence. In the meantime I have had to recover from the physical and psychological injuries this vicious and unprovoked attack has caused me. The flow on effects have been numerous: to my family, my colleagues, my friends and my trust in others and confidence in returning to working as a paramedic. 

Violence at work is an issue that has been tolerated in the past, and sometimes put down to just part of the job, will be no more. The zero tolerance policy on assault to paramedics within Australia is spreading and the violence will no longer be tolerated. In my case I was unfortunately physically assaulted; a king hit to the head which caused concussion, bruising and worst of all cervical neck injuries, nerve damage and pain which I have had to learn to deal with. I was also psychologically assaulted in the same incident, but also in many others over the years. We have tolerated being verbally abused and frequently spat on as if it was an expected part of the job. However, any threats verbal or otherwise toward us will no longer be tolerated. It shouldn't have to be only the physical assaults that take the focus, no level of abuse should be tolerated.

Paramedics are highly trained professionals that pride themselves in giving their all to help those in need and care for their patients. The more times we are stopped from doing our job by threats of violence and abuse the less likely we will be in the future to help. In order for us to continue to do our important work, being the difference between life and death for so many people, we need respect and safety to do our work. No-one deserves to be injured at work.

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