17 Illawarra ambulance officers assaulted in just two months

By Michelle Hoctor
Updated November 5 2012 - 10:54am, first published August 3 2009 - 12:59am
Geordie King was assaulted during a call-out.

Geordie King has had his fingers broken and been thrown against walls, punched and spat on - all of it in the line of duty.There's little the Wollongong intensive care paramedic hasn't seen in his 30-year career, but it took an alleged attack on himself and three colleagues on Sunday for him to decide that enough was enough.Community condemnation has been expressed over the weekend incident that left four paramedics needing hospital treatment.

  • Ambulance officers come under attackIt brings to 17 the number of attacks made against Illawarra ambulance officers on eight different occasions in the past two months. In Sunday's incident, two paramedics - a male and female - were attempting to treat a patient at Primbee when they were allegedly assaulted by a group of people at the location.A second ambulance unit arrived to assist, only for the crowd to turn on two other officers.Mr King was a member of the back-up team who was allegedly assaulted and had his shirt torn from his back.He suffered torn ligaments in his neck, an injured hip and cuts to his head.One of his colleagues was thrown against the ambulance, while all suffered cuts and bruising.Two years ago Mr King had a bottle thrown at him during a home call-out, the impact breaking all the fingers in his right hand."It's pretty disappointing. I joined the ambulance service because I thought I could make a difference," he said."On Sunday night, we had four officers ready to walk away from the job."That's how we felt, the whole lot of us. We were all sore. We'd all received some sort of physical injury from these people."Wollongong district ambulance manager Norm Rees said attacks on ambulance personnel had escalated over the past five years."Once upon a time you could leave the keys in the ignition ... today, we have to lock our cars; we have to be careful because we might get assaulted by people wanting to take our drugs."People's values have changed, from when people were respected for their roles in the community to just not caring any more. Today, it's open slather."Mr Rees said paramedics were backed by a "Zero 1, Code 1" call to police, meaning an ambulance officer required emergency assistance.Residences where previous assaults have occurred were identified with caution notices, meaning paramedics must stand off until police arrive."In a genuine case, we are standing off minutes, half an hour, before we can even proceed into a residence because of a fear of assault, which could cost the lives of innocent people," Mr Rees said.He said legislation that provided stiffer penalties for assaults on police should be extended to all emergency services.NSW Ambulance chief executive Greg Rochford said he would not tolerate attacks on his officers."We maintain a stance of zero tolerance on aggressive behaviour towards paramedics. Any person who attacks a paramedic will be referred to police and dealt with to the full extent of the law," he said.Wollongong Acting Inspector Paul Allman said police were 100 per cent behind ambulance paramedics."Paramedics - and firefighters - are professionals who are just trying to do their job. We look after one another," he said.
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