Paramedics may enter abusive situations and this is getting more common. Picture: Toll Ambulance

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BY JADE MORELLINI

The Australian Paramedics Association (APA) is demanding the reduction of single paramedic responses as paramedics are sick and tired of being attacked on the job.

If paramedics attend emergencies where they feel unsafe or are being threatened, they will now walk away and wait for police to arrive. When paramedics are alone, they are more vulnerable and in these cases, assault has become a common thing, with 189 paramedics attacked in the past 12 months and 20 in the first six weeks of this year.

The Health Minister Brad Hazzard has heard their call and has promised to protect ambulance crews and back paramedics if they decide it’s not safe to treat a patient. The minister held a roundtable last week that the APA and the Health Services Union (HSU) both attended.

After the meeting, Hazzard said, “I believe that our front-line paramedics should be empowered to make the decision that if their safety is compromised, they should not enter the situation that is worrying. They cannot look after each of us if they feel their safety is at risk, they just cannot do their job. You must not put our paramedics at risk, if you do you are putting yourself and your family or your friends at risk.”

APA (NSW) President Chris Kastelan said, “Paramedics work in a challenging and dynamic environment and too often are unfortunately caught up in a situation where they are assaulted.”

Reducing single-paramedics is something that “needed to be done”, however, in order to fix this issue, more paramedics will be required and there will need to be an increase in resources to cater for all emergencies.

“The problem is the lack of resources. There simply are not enough paramedics to handle all the calls for help from the public. We need at least 500 extra paramedics to be recruited to handle the workload,” Kastelan said.

If elected, Luke Foley has committed to an additional 500 paramedics and this will ensure that at least two paramedics will be sent to each call. However, very careful thought would need to be given to this proposal given that single rapid responders – which are used across Australia – provide considerable benefits for patient care, and reduce response times to attend to patients.

APA (NSW) Secretary Steve Pearce said patient safety was being compromised when only a single paramedic responded because, for some patients, effective treatment was best delivered by a team.

“In reality, all paramedics who respond alone are just mopping up emergencies that NSW Ambulance does not have the capacity to cover with a team of two paramedics,” Mr Pearce said. “Paramedic assaults are increasing and that is unacceptable. We recommend that if a single paramedic has any concerns about the dangers of responding to a call, they should ‘stand-off’ and wait for others to arrive to help deal with any trouble. This is an issue of paramedic safety and while paramedics will go to extraordinary lengths to save lives, they can’t perform their jobs if they are being intimidated or assaulted.

“We are calling on the NSW Government to increase the numbers of paramedics in the system and improve safety standards for our members.”

A NSW Ambulance spokesperson said, “NSW Health and NSW Ambulance will carefully consider the Committee’s recommendation about single paramedics and in doing so will consult closely with its key stakeholders. Single officer response can provide early intervention and lifesaving care while an emergency ambulance is dispatched, or can provide backup to paramedic crews for clinical and scene management. NSW Ambulance has well-established procedures for paramedics, operating as a single officer response, or as part of a paramedic crew, to stand off or retreat from an incident scene if there is a threat to paramedic safety.”

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