Independent Denison MP calls to condemn violence against health workers

THE Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has called for more action to be taken to curb violence against paramedics and other ambulance workers.

The call comes after two separate incidents in 2015 involving Tasmanian paramedics, including Hobart paramedic Nick O’Brien, who was assaulted while treating a patient.

Mr O’Brien, 58, and his colleague answered to an emergency call in Bridgewater last October where the paramedic was hit in the mouth by an intoxicated male.

The injuries he sustained in the attack led to Mr O’Brien having to have his four front teeth extracted due to an infection that later developed, and surgery is now required to correct his jaw.

Mr Wilkie said the state’s ambulance officers were too often being subjected to violent attacks and assaults by members of the community.

“Alarmingly, these rates of violence are on the rise,” he said.

“It’s up to those members of the community who are carrying out these attacks to wake up to themselves and realised that violence against our emergency service workers, who are doing their best to help, is never acceptable.”

Mr Wilkie said the state government and Ambulance Tasmania both had a role to play in providing a safer work environment for their staff.

He said part of this included ensuring Tasmania Police was well enough resourced to assist paramedics where necessary.

“Our emergency services play a vital role in the community,” Mr Wilkie said.

“They are underpaid and overworked already, and the last thing they need is to feel unsafe when they go to work.”

A national campaign by the Australian Paramedics Association (APA) is raising awareness of violence against paramedics and its impacts.

Trish Makrogamvrakis, from the association, said the APA was taking a three-pronged approach to assaults.

“This involves stronger minimum sentences for offenders, improving safety systems within ambulance services and changing community attitudes,” she said.

Ms Makrogamvrakis said APA was extremely concerned by the recent escalation of violence against paramedics and would be requesting discussions and assistance from political parties at both state and federal level.

“As a professional organisation that represents a significant number of Australian paramedics, APA supports strict sentencing guidelines for those who assault and/or attack frontline emergency service or health care workers, including volunteers,” she said.

“Whether the violence takes place in an ambulance, a police vehicle or within an emergency department, there is no excuse for abusing or assaulting emergency service workers who are there to support and care for the sick and injured.”