Qld targets violence against paramedics

The Queensland government has launched a campaign to combat violence against ambulance employees following a mounting number of attacks in Townsville.

Naomi tells her personal story in the QAS anti-occupational violence campaign.

Townsville Local Ambulance Service Network (LASN) reported 54 cases of occupational violence in 2017-18, up from 50 the previous year. There have already been 38 cases in the last 10 months.

Queensland Ambulance Services Minister Steven Miles launched the Respect our Staff anti-occupational violence campaign on Thursday saying it is unacceptable to abuse paramedics and Triple Zero callers.

Using the slogan Violence in the workplace affects much more than me, the campaign highlights that paramedics are much more than just someone in a uniform – but parents, husbands and friends with their own lives an interests and contributions to the community.

 “I want to make it clear that there is no place for threats, abuse or assaults for local ambos going about their work,” Mr Miles said.

“Ambulance staff interact with the community when they are at their most vulnerable and should never be the punching bag for a patient or bystander who feels the need to lash out.”

The campaign also includes video of ambulance workers sharing experiences in their own words.

In one video “Naomi” describes how she has been punched, threatened, spat at and touched inappropriately while trying to help people. “David” says he struggles to understand violence against him and his colleagues.

“The physical threats of wanting to kill me or my family for only trying to help you, I just find that absolutely absurd and I never thought it would happen,” he says.

Safety management committee

The launch of the campaign comes after Townsville LASN formed a local Paramedic Safety Management Committee in response to a statewide Paramedic Safety Taskforce Report handed down in 2016.

The report found there were 170 deliberate physical attacks and 56 verbal assaults on ambulance officers in the 2014-15 financial year, an increase from the 160 physical assaults and 33 verbal assaults the previous year.

David says he struggles to understand why anyone would attack a paramedic doing their job.

The report also resulted in a number of other strategies being implemented including de-escalation training, the use of an anti-psychotic drug for violent patients and improved communications technology.

The committee will continue to provide a platform too review incidents against ambulance officers and develop risk minimisation strategies, Assistant Commissioner Townsville LASN Robbie Medlin said.

“The committee will access a wide range of insight from senior staff through to first year graduates, along with union representatives, to ensure all views are heard and represented.”

As well as physical assault, ambulance officers were also adversely affected by verbal abuse and intimidating behaviour, Mr Medlin said.

“A hostile environment impedes us from completing our job efficiently and safely,” he said.

As reported by Government News earlier, there have also been calls in NSW for tougher penalties for assaults on parking rangers following a spate of attacks on council rangers in Western Sydney.

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