Victorian politicians vow to crack down on ‘disgusting’ attacks after another paramedic assaulted
Ambulance Victoria is increasing training and trialling body-worn cameras to make the job safer. (ABC Mildura-Swan Hill; Simon Galletta )
Another Ambulance Victoria paramedic has been assaulted on the job as public outcry over attacks on the emergency workers grows and both sides of politics vow to toughen the law.
Ambulance Victoria revealed a paramedic was admitted to hospital Thursday morning with back and facial injuries, after being spat at and punched by a patient he was treating.
A spokeswoman said the ambulance officers were called to an address in Epping, in Melbourne’s north, about 12:30am to treat a man in his 20s who was unconscious from excessive drinking.
“On attempting to rouse the patient, he woke and became verbally aggressive and abusive towards the crew, spitting at them,” the spokeswoman said.
“Paramedics continued to treat the man and gave him some sedation.
“As they wheeled him on a stretcher to the ambulance, the patient lunged at one of the paramedics, punching him in the face.”
The paramedic was treated in hospital and admitted for pain management.
Mandatory sentencing laws to be tightened
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews lashed out at the County Court’s decision, saying a poor upbringing was no excuse for the women’s behaviour.
“I don’t buy this line because you had an allegedly difficult childhood you are able to behave this way,” he said.
“I don’t buy that, never have, never will.”
While the law, introduced by the previous Napthine Coalition government, requires mandatory prison time, there are special circumstances available to the courts, which were used in that case.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said he would take his own steps to keep people who attack paramedics behind bars.
“I will introduce a private member’s bill to make sure that those who protect us will be protected by the Parliament,” he said.
“We will tighten up the mandatory sentencing provisions.”
Mr Andrews said access to the special circumstances provisions would be tightened under the proposals being considered.
“Mandatory minimum sentences for those who undertake that sort of cowardly disgusting behaviour, they should be in jail, we will make sure the law is changed to make sure they are,” he said.
Mick Stephenson, the director of emergency operations at Ambulance Victoria, said they hoped a new tightened law would help.
“We would like to see offenders of that nature jailed such that a general message of deterrence is sent to the community, in the hope that it doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Assaults down, more work to be done
The public outcry over assaults on paramedics comes as Ambulance Victoria and the Health Minister faced a budget estimates hearing at parliament.
Ambulance Victoria’s CEO, Tony Walker, told the hearing the organisation had increased training and was trialling body-worn cameras to make the job safer.
“Despite the fact that we put in a number of changes … we are still seeing paramedics exposed to occupational violence,” he said.
“Today in Victoria … every 50 hours, a paramedic is actually either physically or verbally assaulted.
“They’re reporting being exposed to 14 incidents a day where violence or aggression is part of the scene.”
He said there were 147 assaults on paramedics in 2017, but that was down on the previous year, when 234 assaults were reported.
“We have seen a reduction in the number of paramedics who have been injured as a result of occupation violence over the last 12 months as a result of the initiatives, but nevertheless any episode of occupational violence is one too many,” he said.
Questioned about whether the drug ice was to blame for the rise in violence, Mr Walker told the hearing alcohol was still the biggest cause of assaults and aggression towards paramedics.