The NSW Ambulance has introduced mandatory anti-violence training for ALL operational officers. This training involves face-to-face training with an education officer and a 20 minute video to impart skills and knowledge to identify and avoid high-risk situations which may lead to violence.
Health Services Union Hunter ambulance sub-branch president Peter Rumball slammed a 20-minute video being used to train paramedics in the region to cope with and avoid violent situations following another attack against paramedics in Newcastle.
It comes after a paramedic was assaulted in Civic Park on Wednesday night – the ninth attack to occur in the Hunter this year.
Police say the 26-year-old woman was receiving treatment for a laceration above her eye, at about 6pm, when she struck a paramedic in the rib area before fleeing. She will face Newcastle Local Court in June.
Mr Rumball said ‘‘It’s becoming more frequent and we need the ambulance service to step up and provide greater training than a 20-minute video,’’ he said. ‘‘The members have described it as ticking a box and that’s coming directly from the members.’’
Mr Rumball called for paramedics to get training more akin to what police received. ‘‘We need full awareness and more concern of what we’re sending our officers into,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve got patients who are affected by LSD, ice and PCP. ‘‘We’ve also got people with mental health problems who would normally be in institutions out in the community.’’ This suggestion lacks merit as paramedics are not exposed to the same level of violence as police. Paramedics have the option to “stand off” from locations were violence is occurring or suspected, the police do not.
Mr Rumball also said he was disappointed by the lack of offenders being sent to jail for assaulting paramedics. ‘‘No one will go to jail for assaulting an ambulance officer,’’ he said. ‘‘It is going to take a paramedic to get killed for someone to go to jail. This may be so, but this is his opinion. This is still a matter for the courts and the judicial officers involved. Furthermore, ambulance has demonstrated that they will appeal a sentence that they perceive as being too lenient.
NSW Ambulance deputy chief executive Mike Willis said they didn’t consider Mr Rumball’s comments as representative of the greater paramedic population. ‘‘This criticism of the video is surprising given that the paramedic unions – HSU and EMSPA – were shown the video and had no issue with it,’’ he said. ‘‘Internally, NSW Ambulance is currently providing anti-violence training for all paramedics. ‘‘The training assists with situational awareness, de-escalating difficult situations, and understanding patterns of behaviour to help a paramedic avert violent situations. ‘‘NSW Ambulance also produced a video to assist paramedics with decision making in circumstances that could become volatile.’’ Mr Willis acknowledged paramedic assaults were increasing. He said criminal charges had been laid in 35 of the 67 alleged assaults that have occurred in the state between January and April this year. ‘‘With the majority still before the NSW courts,’’ he said. ‘‘NSW Ambulance has a zero tolerance policy towards any form of abuse, be it physical or verbal. ‘‘We are committed to ensuring the health and well-being of our entire workforce, with support provided to all of our paramedics.’’
Mr Rumball has a long history of opposing steps taken by ambulance to improve the service to the public, and also to training provided for officers to improve their already difficult and stressful occupation. It is likely that this view is not a true representation of paramedics views. Membership in the HSU has been decimated in Newcastle and indeed throughout the NSW as a result of the corrupt practices demonstrated by HSU senior management. Paramedics have deserted the HSU in droves, some moving to EMSPA, and with many others deserting the union movement all together. This incident would appear to be the Hunter HSU trying to discredit an effective training program provided to combat increasing risk of violence to paramedic officers.
I personally applaud the efforts of ambulance to better prepare officers to manage potentially violent situations that may confront them.
Acknowledgments: The Newcastle Herald; Cartoon: Peter Lewis