ACT paramedics are unequipped to deal with suspected domestic violence cases. Photo: Gabriele Charotte
Ambulance paramedics are not equipped to deal with victims of domestic violence or to identify whether patients may have been assaulted by a partner, a new study has found.
The authors of the study want paramedics to have the same level of preparedness to deal with people suffering from domestic violence as they do with managing road trauma.
A survey of 50 ACT paramedics found 90 per cent had responded to between one and 20 cases of partner violence in the previous year.
None of the paramedics had used domestic violence screening techniques.
A co-author of the study, Brett Williams of Monash University in Melbourne, said people were often treated by paramedics without going to hospital so it was important those called out could identify possible domestic violence victims who didn't volunteer what had occurred.
''Our results suggest paramedics are not equipped to deal with this particular category of patients that they regularly encounter,'' Dr Williams wrote in the journal Emergency Medicine Australasia.
''In the light of the insidious nature of the trauma suffered by such patients, it is surprising that action in the form of education and awareness has not been conducted sooner. Preparing paramedics with the appropriate attitude, knowledge and skills to effectively deal with victims … to the same extent as those provided for the management of road trauma, will assist paramedics to better care for patients.''
Dr Williams, a former intensive care paramedic, said United States ambulance services had tried to introduce standardised pre-hospital screening for domestic violence, but Australians services were yet to take on a similar initiative.
Transport Workers Union official Ben Sweaney said ambulance officers had been seeking additional training to deal with sensitive issues such as domestic violence.
''Officers report regular instances of working with other emergency services, such as the police, who have been fortunate enough to undertake training,'' he said.
''In instances where ambos are on their own, all too often the report back is that they're simply not fitted with the necessary skills.
''Officers do their best in difficult situations, but would like to see a lot more training for these sorts of matters.''
Mirjana Wilson, executive director of the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, said injuries from domestic violence were sometimes incorrectly put down to other causes.
She said health professionals needed the skills to recognise when domestic violence might have occurred, and to raise the issue with victims.
''Health professionals - if it's the GP, the midwife, or the ambo - could all benefit from having domestic violence-specific training.''
Nobody from the ACT Ambulance Service was available to comment on Thursday because senior managers were travelling interstate.