Paramedics on the danger list for alcohol-related violence

HEALTH Services Union (HSU) spokesperson Matt Pickering says while attacks on paramedics are relatively rare  in the country, becoming the victim of alcohol-fuelled violence is a hazard of the job.

His comments come after the NSW Ambulance Service revealed there was a 50 per cent rise in assaults on paramedics last year.

As president of the Central West Ambulance sub-branch of the HSU Mr Pickering, who also works as a paramedic, says he and his colleagues are aware of the dangers of the job but work together, along with police, to minimise the potential danger.

“Any situation involving alcohol, drugs and people who are angry or frightened, can put an officer at risk,” Mr Pickering said.

“However the vast majority of the people we deal with are superb but there’s always a risk, but they’re [attacks on paramedics] relatively rare when compared with Sydney,” he said.

“Alcohol is the leading cause of violence and depending on the type of drugs, whether it’s ice or speed, people can become extremely unpredictable.

“A lot of the time when we see people they’re under an enormous amount of stress so we’re heading into a situation that’s potentially volatile already.”

Mr Pickering said the NSW Ambulance Service had instituted a number of procedures designed to minimise risk including: better emergency call processing, having two officers respond to jobs and working closely with police. 

He said paramedics working in country or regional areas also had the advantage of being able to use their knowledge of the area to determine potential risks.

“There used to be certain areas of town where we were more cautious but the  council and the Department of Housing have worked to upgrade these areas.”

Despite the procedures, violence against paramedics in regional areas does happen.

Last year Abraham Pourece was given a 12 month suspended jail sentence and ordered to undertake 200 hours of community service after he slammed his fist into the back of an Orange paramedic.

More recently a female paramedic, working in the Sydney central business district on Sunday morning, was allegedly assaulted prompting NSW Ambulance Service  Inspector Ian Johns to condemn the growing violence against paramedics.

Inspector Johns said there were 133 assaults against paramedics last year, up from 89 in 2012.

tracey.prisk@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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