A PARAMEDIC has been assaulted while trying to help a man at a home in the Hunter Valley, prompting calls for additional resources to prevent crews being treated as “battering rams”.
The two-person paramedic team and NSW Police were called to an Isobella Street, Muswellbrook home in the early hours of Sunday morning following a concern for welfare report, police said.
As paramedics attempted to treat the 19-year-old patient, he became aggressive, striking out at both police and paramedics, police said. The patient allegedly bit a male paramedic on the arm, ferociously enough to draw blood.
The second paramedic was able to subdue the man, the Health Services Union (HSU) said.
NSW Police said the 19-year-old man was taken to hospital for assessment, and inquiries into the incident were continuing. It was expected the man would be charged.
HSU NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said the incident highlighted the need for more resourcing for frontline paramedics.
“Nobody deserves to be bitten when they are attending to someone else’s well being,” he said.
“This is ugly and completely unacceptable.
“Attacks such as this are all too common and we are sick of seeing them.”
He said the injured paramedic was fortunate to be working in a two-person crew.
“Thankfully on this occasion the paramedic had a colleague nearby, but all too often that’s not the case,” Mr Hayes said.
“The best way to protect our paramedics is by giving them safety in numbers. We have consistently argued for an extra 800 paramedics statewide. But it seems the Premier does not consider paramedic safety a priority.”
NSW Ambulance said in a statement it had a zero tolerance stance regarding violence or abuse against paramedics and Triple Zero call takers.
“It is unacceptable that staff rendering emergency medical assistance should be subject to physical and/or verbal abuse, while attempting to provide clinical advice or care,” NSW Ambulance said.
The organsation said there was $7.5 million announced in the 2017 state budget for 50 additional relief paramedics. This followed $12.8 million in the 2016 state budget which funded an additional 85 staff - now on the frontline, it said.
“This comes in addition to the $5.1 million in NSW government funding provided to finish recruiting 35 specialist paramedics, two years earlier than promised at the 2015 state election,” NSW Ambulance said.
During the first half of 2017 NSW Ambulance reported 105 instances of paramedic abuse or assault to NSW Police, it said.
There were “a range of measures” in place to ensure a reduction in the risk of violence against paramedics. These included “de-escalation, scene safety, issue identification strategies, rigorous reporting and procedures and community education”.
“If paramedics deem a scene unsafe they may wait nearby for NSW Police Force assistance,” NSW Ambulance said.
“NSW Ambulance provides an extensive range of support measures to paramedics, call takers and other staff to assist them if they experience stressful or traumatic situations in their work, including assault.”
HSU said the paramedic injured on Sunday was shaken, but recovering well.
“When paramedics pull on their uniform, say goodbye to their family and go to work, they don’t go with the expectation of being assaulted, abused and bitten,” he said.
“We will keep fighting for a properly-resourced ambulance workforce. Paramedics do not deserve to be treated as battering rams.”