PAUL Clough’s mother will never forget the promises made by NSW Ambulance after her son’s suicide in 2010, using morphine taken from the ambulance station where he worked.
“They promised all sorts of things; that they’d look after their own in future because of what happened with Paul, but I don’t think they do,” said Lesley Clough.
Eight years after Paul Clough, 39, died in his home, his mother was devastated by reports of Lake Macquarie ambulance officer Tony Jenkins’ suicide on April 9. She broke her silence to support Mr Jenkins’ widow Sharon and daughters Kim and Cidney.
The Jenkins family wants answers from NSW Ambulance about events leading up to Mr Jenkins’ death, including an unscheduled meeting with senior officers on the day he died about his use of an opioid drug missing from an ambulance station.
“When I heard about his death I just thought, oh my God that is so tragic. They see too much. They think they deal with it but they don’t. They just keep it all inside,” said Lesley Clough.
Paul Clough was a police officer before becoming an ambulance officer. His work partner for a number of years, Port Stephens woman Linda Tighe, broke her silence of eight years to talk about his death after being struck by the similarities between the final months and days of the men’s lives.
“We did so many bad jobs together, but with all those bad jobs I don’t remember anyone in senior management saying to us, ‘Are you okay?’” Miss Tighe said about their experiences in the Kempsey area.
“When I was there you didn’t put your hand up to say you were struggling. Sick leave was routinely called ‘sook leave’. You were just supposed to get on with it.”
The run of shocking incidents Miss Tighe and Mr Clough responded to included two hangings in one day, a man killed instantly in a forest tree fall and the suicide of a man when he threw himself beneath a semi-trailer on a freeway. One of the most devastating incidents was the sudden death of a baby under extremely sad circumstances.
They promised all sorts of things; that they’d look after their own in future because of what happened with Paul, but I don’t think they do.Mother of NSW Ambulance officer Paul Clough who took his own life in 2010.
“Post traumatic stress disorder is such a slow thing that you don’t know it’s happening. I put everything down to being tired, but I gradually just withdrew so that in the end I didn’t want to leave my house,” Miss Tighe said.
“It’s not enough to wait for the person to say they’re not coping. The employer has a duty of care for people who experience trauma day in, day out.”
She left NSW Ambulance in 2012 and later reached a settlement after initiating legal action following a post traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.
Mrs Clough said her son experienced his first traumatic incident as a trainee police officer, when he was first officer on the scene of a car crash involving a former school friend. He died after a 2008 parliamentary inquiry found “the level of suicide in the service is indicative of a highly dysfunctional working environment”.
Mrs Clough and Miss Tighe said they were shocked to read that Mr Jenkins was called in to a meeting with senior ambulance staff on the day he died, to talk about allegations he had taken Fentanyl taken from at least one Hunter ambulance station.
“I can’t even imagine what that would have been like for him, having noone there to support him when something like that was going to be raised,” Miss Tighe said.
Police and NSW Ambulance are investigating the final day of Mr Jenkins’ life, where he bought items to take his own life only 30 minutes after being dropped off, alone, following the meeting about his alleged drug use.
Sharon, Kim and Cidney Jenkins and Mr Jenkins’ nephew Shayne Connell met with Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday to raise their concerns about NSW Ambulance’s failure to address long-standing issues about employee welfare.
Mr Hazzard appointed the NSW chief psychiatrist to a panel investigating Mr Jenkins’ death, Mr Connell said. A spokesperson for Mr Hazzard said he would not be commenting on the meeting.
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