Ambo attack: addict's mum slams system

The mother of a Barrack Heights man convicted this week for bashing a female paramedic has slammed the "system" for letting him - and his victim - down.

Marcus Rex Olive, 34, was sentenced to a minimum 12 months' jail after repeatedly punching the woman in the head and kicking her in the body during an unprovoked, ice-fuelled, attack in the back of an ambulance on March 21.

His mother, Yvonne Olive, said the NSW Ambulance Service should have been warned that her son - who had been "red flagged" by Shellharbour Hospital after assaulting a female nurse - could turn violent.

"He's my son and I want him safe but I want everyone else to be safe, too," she said.

"Shellharbour Hospital has red flagged him because of a previous assault on a female nurse and has made it clear to staff that when he is unwell, he is not to be in contact with any female nurse.

"Why isn't there a system in place so other health services, like the ambulance service, are made aware that he's a risk to the community, and himself? Why wait for someone else to get hurt?"

Mrs Olive said she and her husband, Gary, had been trying to get their son into a long-term treatment facility for drug dependency and mental illness for more than a decade.

She said her son was allegedly sexually assaulted by a sports coach as a child, which led to a "complete breakdown" at the age of 20 and a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

He spent 4½ months in Shellharbour Hospital's mental health unit after the breakdown and had since been admitted to the unit more than 100 times.

"Marcus's treatment has only been 'Band-Aid' treatment," she said. "He needs long-term rehabilitation."

Mrs Olive said she was "sickened" about the attack on the female paramedic, and again felt let down by the system when her son was released back into the community prior to his court appearance this week. Now she's concerned he will not receive the rehabilitation he needs in jail.

An Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District spokesperson said the system of "red flagging" better prepared hospital staff to deal with potentially difficult patients.

"The local health district, emergency department teams in particular, works very closely with our ambulance colleagues [and police as required] to determine a suitable plan for any patient who requires complex management," the spokesperson said.

"This includes an appropriate information exchange and regular communication to help teams best prepare for the presentation.

"This is not a one-size-fits-all approach and staff develop these plans based on individual cases, using the relevant information available and in line with privacy regulations."

NSW Ambulance figures show that from January 1 to June 30, 2014, 97 incidents where paramedics suffered verbal and/or physical abuse were recorded - a rise of 25 incidents compared with the same period last year.

NSW Ambulance Commissioner Ray Creen said there were systems, and training, in place to protect paramedics, including the computer-aided dispatch system, which flagged violent patients.

"In some instances where a history of violence or potential weapon possession exists, NSW Police are alerted at the time of the emergency call to attend the location prior to the arrival of paramedics," he said.

"While we have these systems in place, it does not necessarily mean that the patient we are picking up will be calling Triple-0 from that address."

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