Ambos ‘in danger’ lose police back-up


GEELONG paramedics face weekly instances of dangerous situations without police back-up, according to Ambulance Employees’ Association.
State secretary Steve McGhie said in one instance local paramedics were threatened with a gun and on another occasion an officer was assaulted in the rear of the ambulance.
The patient with the gun threatened all medical staff who came near him, Mr McGhie said.
“These things happen on a weekly basis and unfortunately they’re on the increase,” he said.
Mr McGhie partly blamed a directive to police communications centres three years ago to provide back-up only in cases of direct threat.
Patients were often under the influence of alcohol or drugs or had mental health issues but paramedics were now unable to call on police to attend potentially dangerous situations with them, he said.
“Our instruction now is that if paramedics are in any doubt, don’t go in, or if they see a risk to get out until the scene is rendered safe.
“If that means a patient suffers that is an unfortunate consequence. But there is no point to a paramedic getting injured and needing assistance themselves.”
Mr McGhie said he understood Ambulance Victoria supported the directive to paramedics.
“A lot of this is about resourcing. Police on the ground will do everything they can to help paramedics but the relevant information needs to be passed between police and ambulance so they can respond and back up paramedics.
“Where police are aware that paramedics are at risk they try and get resources there but sometimes information is not shared or ambulance locations of incident sites don’t match up with police sites.
“The working relationship is fantastic because they need each other, like all the emergency services, but for whatever reason this directive came out to communications rooms.”
Mr McGhie said he suspected the directive was issued after police were being needlessly sent to ambulance jobs.
“But the real issue is that the health system is not dealing with these issues earlier and they become crisis issues – and then paramedics become the punching bags.”
Ambulance Victoria regional manager Mick Cameron said Geelong police always responded if officers believed paramedics were threatened or at risk.
“Some paramedics might misunderstand some of the processes they need to follow to request police assistance,” Mr Cameron said.
“We’ll be following up any instance where a paramedic believes they’ve been in danger or haven’t got appropriate support.”
Mr Cameron said Ambulance Victorian was working with other health services and agencies to prevent cases from reaching crisis points at which paramedics faced potentially dangerous situations.