More than one-third of paramedics assaulted in past year, report finds
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More than one-third of paramedics assaulted in past year, report finds

More than one-third of paramedics have reported being assaulted while on the job during the past 12 months, a new study has found.

Medical officers have called for better training and cooperation with police, and improved education, as a way to prevent future assaults in the first international study looking at paramedic assaults.

Some paramedics also suggested they carry guns, to be used in their self-defence.

Out of the 1778 paramedics surveyed, 633 reported being assaulted in the past year.

Out of the 1778 paramedics surveyed, 633 reported being assaulted in the past year.

Photo: Katherine Griffiths

The study, published in the journal Injury, surveyed 1778 paramedics from 13 countries. Of them, 633 reporting being assaulted in the past year and 203 of those said the incident could have been prevented.

The figures come as ACT paramedics are being assaulted by patients in record numbers.

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Lead author of the study, Central Queensland University adjunct professor Brian Maguire, said many suggestions were brought up by respondents as a way to address the issue.

"Our study found some [emergency medical services] personnel see a role for weapons in their self-defence," he said.

"However, carrying firearms and other self-protection weapons introduces a host of issues in regard to liability."

A majority of paramedic assaults occur on weekend nights, where drugs and alcohol are a factor.

A majority of paramedic assaults occur on weekend nights, where drugs and alcohol are a factor.

Photo: Rohan Thomson

While a large number of assaults were recorded in the survey, the study also found that 44 per cent of assaults against paramedics went unreported.

Self-defence equipment and resources were mentioned as a potential solution by multiple respondents in the survey, such as restraints for violent patients as well as ketamine for those who do not respond to drugs such as valium.

"Paramedics as a whole receive zero education, training, support or knowledge/resources in regards to personal safety, scene awareness, self defence or protection," one paramedic wrote.

Another said incidents could be prevented if paramedics received greater information about potential issues before they responded to call outs.

"Respondents wrote that violence against [paramedics] would have been prevented if there was 'more information from dispatch' [and] 'better law enforcement intervention," the report said.

Professor Maguire said while some in the survey suggested weapons or other defensive tools to protect themselves against violent patients, other options were put forward.

"Less contentious options included de-escalation training, self-defence training, better pat-downs by police prior to transport and increased penalties for perpetrators of assault," he said.

Paramedics in Australia, the study noted, have a higher injury and fatality rate compared to any other occupation, with the rate of violence-related injuries among paramedics tripling over the past decade.

Last year saw 16 paramedics in the ACT assaulted, almost double that of the previous year, with rates of assault on paramedics in NSW and Victoria also on the rise.

Earlier this year, the Victorian government announced attacks on emergency service workers would be treated as a category-one offence, which would require a custodial sentence.

The changes to the law came after criticism following two women being spared jail time despite being found guilty of assaulting a paramedics.

Andrew Brown is a journalist at the Sunday Canberra Times. Andrew has worked at the Canberra Times since 2016.