by Christine Kellett
The Queensland ambulance union has called for better protection for its members following an attack on a paramedic in central Queensland at the weekend. Secretary of Ambulance Employees Australia, Steve Crow, said recent reforms to the criminal code increasing the penalties for assaults on police should be extended to cover all emergency service workers who risked their lives to save others.
Under changes ordered by Police Minister Judy Spence last year, spitting, biting and throwing bodily fluids at police officers now constitutes a serious assault and attracts a maximum seven-year jail term.
“As far as we’re concerned, the new laws should protect our members just the same as they do police,” Mr Crow told brisbanetimes.com.au. “It is unfortunate, but attacks on paramedics are becoming more and more regular.
Our members are coming into contact on a daily basis with people who are highly emotive or drunk or violent and it can be a very difficult environment to work in. There was a time when there would be a parting of the seas, if you will, when our members walked into a fight at a pub to assist someone who was injured…(but) sadly, there appears to have been a lot of respect lost for paramedics in the community now. It is totally unacceptable and should be treated as such.”
The call comes after an ambulance officer was allegedly beaten and spat on several times by two men after he stepped in to protect a patient being transported to hospital in Beserker, near Rockhampton, on Saturday evening.
It is believed the pair had earlier been at a party with the patient and were trying to get access to him in the back of the ambulance when they began banging violently on the side of the vehicle.
Police said the officer wound down the window to speak to the men and was allegedly punched in the head and spat on. He got out of the ambulance and was assaulted a second time. He suffered minor injuries and is said to be nervously awaiting the result of blood tests.
Mr Crow, described the attack as “extraordinary”. “Paramedics are usually seen as the white knights of the emergency services, so for one of our guys to be assaulted in this way is a sad day for society I think. We are already working with (Queensland Ambulance Service) at some strategies to do with managing potentially violent situations where our members are at risk…but there is always room for more to be done.”