Paramedics are being assaulted in the Barwon South West region at a rate of one a week, according to shock new figures.
Data from Ambulance Victoria has revealed there were 74 reports of attacks on ambulance crews over the 17 months to November – 41 over the 2022-23 financial year and a further 33 between July and the end of November.
That means the problem in the Geelong region is escalating, increasing from one attack every nine days between July 1, 2022 and June 30 2023, to one every 4.5 days from July to November this year.
The statewide figures are even more shocking, with a paramedic assaulted on average every 15 hours.
Barwon South West Regional Director Jessica McGowan said Ambulance Victoria had zero tolerance for abuse, threatening behaviour and assaults.
“We’ve seen horrific behaviour recently, including paramedics being spat on, hit with a closed fist, a patient punching a vehicle with the crew trapped inside and (we) even had a random bystander hurl a hammer at an ambulance,” Ms McGowan said.
“We have zero tolerance for these disgusting and illegal acts, and we do not accept occupational violence as ‘part of the job’.”
Ms McGowan said assaulting an emergency worker is a category one criminal offence, and paramedics would leave a scene if they felt unsafe.
“Our people’s safety comes first, and they will always be supported not to enter a scene or to retreat if they believe they are at risk,” she said.
There are fears the situation will worsen as the festive season approaches and alcohol consumption increases.
“We recognise emergency situations can be stressful but becoming angry or aggressive will not help you or the patient paramedics are trying to help,” said Ms McGowan.
“For our paramedics to provide treatment to you or your loved one, they need a safe environment to work in.”
“We ask all Barwon South West residents to help our paramedics care for the community by being respectful towards them and if you are involved in an emergency incident, doing your bit to assist.”
Ambulance Victoria said people could take a number of steps to assist paramedics carry out their lifesaving jobs:
- Be respectful towards everyone involved in an incident
- Put your safety first – if there is violence or aggression present at a scene, stay well back and don’t do anything to aggravate or worsen the situation.
- Advise the Triple Zero (000) call-taker if violence or aggression is present. They can arrange for police to attend.
- Follow paramedics’ instructions. If it is safe to do so, ask agitated family or friends to clear the area for a moment.
- Offer assistance by letting the paramedics know that you are available to help.