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City's angels facing nightly beat of danger

Date

Christopher Knaus

ACT Ambulance Service Deputy Chief officer, David Dutton talks about ambulance officers being assaulted whilst on the job.

ACT Ambulance Service Deputy Chief officer, David Dutton talks about ambulance officers being assaulted whilst on the job. Photo: Melissa Adams

Paramedics are being assaulted as they try to treat drunk and drug-fuelled patients, and the consumption of drug ''cocktails'' is forcing paramedics into increasingly unpredictable and volatile situations.

Five paramedics have been assaulted on the job every year for the past three years. A total of 21 ambulance officers were assaulted in the past five years, but that figure may not include less serious assaults that go unreported.

The assaults have sucked $440,000 from the ACT Ambulance Service's budget in workers' compensation claims for loss of salary, medical costs, examinations and rehabilitation.

Ambulance Service deputy chief officer David Dutton said while not all assaults were alcohol or drug related, patients who were drunk were more prone to turn violent.

''We accept that our work involves dealing with a whole range of people across the community at their very best and very worst,'' Mr Dutton said.

''Sadly it is a reality of life that there are some people who are unappreciative of our efforts or other's efforts to help them.''

Some assaults have occurred in the back of ambulances, as paramedics try to treat patients on stretchers.

Mr Dutton said there were strong measures in place to protect paramedics caught in danger. The service warns its paramedics to quickly withdraw from cases that become volatile and alert police.

But Mr Dutton said the mixture of different drugs and alcohol were making some cases wildly unpredictable, and catching paramedics off guard.

''Where you start getting a cocktail of different mixes, so some alcohol and some drugs, some of which you might know about, some of which you might not, they tend to be the people that can be quite unpredictable.''

In April, the Victorian government introduced tougher jail sentences for assaults against paramedics, police and other emergency workers.

Western Australia introduced similar sentencing reforms for emergency workers in 2009 and there have been calls for tougher prison terms in Tasmania and Queensland recently.

Mr Dutton said the service had managed to mostly avoid serious injuries from the 21 attacks.

But paramedics were often affected psychologically and physically.

Mr Dutton said paramedics were also at potential risk when called to domestic violence incidents.

''We shouldn't unfairly paint the pubs and clubs as the only place violence can happen,'' he said.

''But we would certainly on a Friday and Saturday night … be spending a large amount of time in the Civic precinct or in other areas where there's hotels and licensed premises.''

8 comments so far

  • What's different now form earlier decades is the drugs and alcohol mix... the alcohol is still the same.

    Commenter
    Brett
    Location
    Manuka
    Date and time
    July 19, 2012, 9:51AM
    • I think with increasing violence,and the total disrespect for mankind,the Governments have to address these issue and come down hard on these violent criminal,because thats what they are criminals.The community has had a gut full of the limp wristed sentence's hand out to Drug and Alcholol effected people,and the violence in our street.Wake up Labor and the Liberal,this is a massive issue and needs to be address...I am sure most of these idiots have form or priors , and are well know to the police, but due to there ages were slapped on the wrist at 14yo.Its time our whole Judicial System was reviewed,and these 14 yo were trialed as Adults and feel the full force of the law and the Judicial system.Then maybe just maybe our street will be safe again.

      Commenter
      Martin says
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      July 19, 2012, 11:13AM
      • Why don't they put drunks in lockup like they used to so they can sleep it off?

        Commenter
        Adzz
        Location
        Canberra, Australia
        Date and time
        July 19, 2012, 11:30AM
        • There is a drink tank at the Ainslie Village, so this does happen. I'm not sure if violent offenders are taken there or just people who are very drunk and need to recover.

          Commenter
          Singledom
          Date and time
          July 19, 2012, 6:27PM
      • Ive said it before and I will say it again....idiots + alcohol = bigger idiots.

        Commenter
        Karen
        Date and time
        July 19, 2012, 11:37AM
        • LEAVE THE IDIOTS ROLLING IN THEIR OWN VOMIT AND BLOOD.
          STOP ALL THESE SO CALLED BIG TOUGH BLOKES GUZZLING
          THE SHIELA'S PRETTY COLOURFUL SUGARY CRAP AND DRINK
          BEER 5 WILL GET YOU 10 IT WILL DROP THE CRAP BY 50% MINIMUM.,

          Commenter
          Nitro Gangster
          Location
          ACT
          Date and time
          July 19, 2012, 11:49AM
          • It's not only up to governments, police and the judiciary to deal with lawless and anti-social behaviour. ITS ALSO UP TO US AS A COMMUNITY to take responsibility and deal with it. The trouble is that PEOPLE DON'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING ANYMORE.

            Commenter
            Kambah Kid
            Location
            Kambahland
            Date and time
            July 19, 2012, 2:02PM
            • The real problem is not alcohol. It's the stuff, eg Ice, they take with it. I suspect that, with the high price of alcohol in bars, young people get fuelled-up with cheaper drugs before they go out.

              Commenter
              Nicomachean
              Location
              Kingston
              Date and time
              July 19, 2012, 2:27PM

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