IN the 30 years he has been a paramedic Craig Parsons has had a gun pulled on him, been spat on and verbally abused.
As the Acting President of the Central West Sub Branch of the Health Services Union, Mr Parsons is well aware of the risks he and his colleagues face every day, as they go about their job of helping people, often in the most dire of circumstances.
The risks paramedics face is again in the spotlight, following an alleged incident in Riverwood, Sydney, where a man died after an angry mob of men swarmed paramedics and prevented them from treating him.
The incident comes just weeks after a paramedic was assaulted and others were threatened when they were treating an unconscious woman at a Sydney bar in Darling Harbour.
Fortunately, Mr Parsons said the incidence of assaults on paramedics is far lower in the country, but still a problem, exacerbated by the prevalence of drugs, alcohol and family violence.
“When I was in Sydney I had a gun pulled on me but even out here I’ve received verbal threats and been spat on,” he said.
“It has always been an issue for paramedics.”
Mr Parsons said some times a patient is aggressive because of their injury.
“They just don’t know what they are doing.”
Other times it’s the impact of drugs and alcohol.
“A lot of people over indulge and when they do they act out,” he said.
For paramedics it’s a increasing concern.
“No one wants to get sworn at, spat on or hit, all we are there to do is help.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where we can’t help someone because of their family or friends.
Mr Parsons recalled the day he had a gun pulled on him while going to a call-out in Sydney.
His unit was the first car on scene to a call a person was collapsed in a car park.
He got out of the ambulance to assist and saw a man, dead on the ground. As he approached a man came out of the shadows pulling a gun saying “don’t work on him” before disappearing.
Mr Parsons said he felt the best way forward was to educate the public.
“The sole reason we are here is to help the person, please let paramedics do their job,” he said.
To offer some protection the triple 000 lines contain a flagging system, alerting paramedics if they are being called to an address where violence has previously occurred, in this case paramedics attend with police back up.
Paramedics across the state have also received the backing of the Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, to walk away from a situation where they feel their safety is compromised.
In February this year Mr Hazzard announced he unequivocally supported the right of all paramedics to keep safe and make the decision to not enter a dangerous situation.
Mr Hazzard made it clear paramedics have the full backing of the government and senior management if they choose to stay away from an unsafe situation, even if it means someone could die.