ACT News

Abuse of ACT paramedics down as bullying claim rejected

A Canberra paramedic's claim he was bullied by senior ambulance staff has been rejected by an independent investigator. 

The finding came as the ACT Ambulance Service released figures which showed physical abuse of their paramedics by clients dropped last financial year. 

As reported in April, the bullying claim was the subject of a WorkSafe ACT report which found the Justice and Community Safety Directorate, through the ambulance service, had failed to meet its duties under federal work health and safety laws by not investigating the complaint.

An Emergency Services Agency spokesman said the intensive care paramedic's claim had not been proven. 

"The independent investigator concluded that, on the basis of the evidence available, on the balance of probabilities the behaviour alleged does not meet the definition of bullying as outlined in the [Workplace Health and Safety] Preventing and Responding to Bullying Code of Practice," he said. 

Transport Workers Union official Ben Sweaney said the paramedic was "incredibly frustrated".


"[He] believes the process was flawed, and we will work with the statutory authority (WorkSafe ACT) to ensure the investigation was thorough and accurate."

The abuse figures showed there were five reported cases of physical violence by clients against ambulance officers in 2013-14, down from nine the previous year.

The number of incidents of verbal abuse was unchanged, with two reported. 

Mr Sweaney said the service's employee assistance programs worked well, but a defined peer support program needed to be explored. 

"Officers are seeking a review of peer support programs provided in other jurisdictions such as South Australia and NSW, as the believe they will complement existing frameworks such as the RED [Respect, Equity and Diversity] scheme".

ACT Ambulance Service chief officer David Foot said officers had a wide range of support available, including a chaplain, the external SupportLink program - available also to assist members' families - and duty officers attended an accident where a member had been assaulted.

Mr Foot also said a number of serving ACTAS staff had been trained as RED officers who could provide confidential advice to their colleagues.

"They are able to assist staff by providing a confidential, listening-post type thing, and also provide referral information on equity, policies and practice," he said. 

Mr Foot said it was not only patients affected by alcohol and drugs who might lash out at officers. Those with complex medical conditions also sometimes acted aggressively, often involuntarily. 

There have been 33 reported physical or verbal assaults in the last four financial years, from more than 120,000 patient contacts, he said.