Paramedics launch zero tol­er­ance sticker cam­paign against abuse

Stick­ers warn pa­tients there’s no ex­cuse for abuse of paramedics

The Peterborough Examiner - - Front Page - JASON BAIN Ex­am­iner Staff Writer

Peter­bor­ough County/City Paramedics have launch a zero-tol­er­ance cam­paign aimed at curb­ing ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour to­ward the first re­spon­ders.

Each am­bu­lance in the lo­cal fleet now sports a large sticker that sends a clear mes­sage – there is no ex­cuse for abus­ing paramedics.

“All we are ask­ing for is for paramedics to be treated in the same way pa­tients ex­pect to be treated, with re­spect,” Chief Randy Mel­low said, ex­plain­ing how the cam­paign also serves to sup­port staff and im­prove their men­tal health.

Imag­ine the im­pact on a para­medic who sees some­thing peo­ple shouldn’t have to see – some­thing that most peo­ple would not ever see – dur­ing one call for ser­vice, only to be abused dur­ing the next, he said.

“(The sticker cam­paign) sends a very clear mes­sage to the pa­tient and also to the para­medic, that lead­er­ship sup­ports them and we can’t be think­ing that (ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour) is part of the job,” the chief said.

Some cit­i­zens may also ar­gue that many pa­tients are im­paired by drugs or al­co­hol, but if that was a rea­son­able ex­cuse for ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour, then be­hav­iours re­lated to those con­di­tions wouldn’t be against the law, Mel­low pointed out.

“That’s not an ex­cuse,” he said, adding the fo­cus is ad­dress­ing cul­pa­ble be­hav­iour.

The cam­paign, which was launched Aug. 20, comes on the heels of a 2014 sur­vey that found 75 per cent of paramedics had ex­pe­ri­enced vi­o­lence in the past year.

Some 1,676 paramedics, some 89 per cent of the 1,884 in­vited, took part in the Para­medic self-re­ported ex­po­sure to vi­o­lence in the emer­gency med­i­cal ser­vices (EMS) work­place: A mixed-meth­ods cross-sec­tional sur­vey.

The most com­mon form of vi­o­lence re­ported was ver­bal as­sault (67 per cent), fol­lowed by in­tim­i­da­tion (41 per cent), phys­i­cal as­sault (26 per cent), sex­ual ha­rass­ment (14 per cent) and sex­ual as­sault (3 per cent).

When you ap­ply that math to the more than 100 em­ployed by the ser­vice, it be­comes clear many lo­cal paramedics have been vic­tim­ized, Mel­low said, point­ing out how younger fe­male paramedics have been

par­tic­u­larly vic­tim­ized.

“It’s not ac­cept­able.”

The core mes­sage of the cam­paign is that paramedics are there to help. “They have ded­i­cated their lives to help­ing peo­ple … they shouldn’t be sub­jected to abuse.”

Mel­low, who is the pres­i­dent of the Para­medic Chiefs of Canada, ex­plained how ser­vice ad­min­is­tra­tors be­gan ad­dress­ing abu­sive be­hav­iour years ago by pro­vid­ing train­ing on pre­ven­tive mea­sures like un­der­stand­ing body lan­guage and self-de­fence.

The na­tional as­so­ci­a­tion is also

ex­am­in­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of sug­gest­ing changes to the ju­di­cial sys­tem – such as in­clud­ing spe­cific charges for paramedics, sim­i­lar to those that ap­ply specif­i­cally to po­lice or peace of­fi­cers.

“But it is the lo­cal ex­pe­ri­ences that has brought this to light for us,” Mel­low said, not­ing how a lo­cal case cur­rently be­fore the courts played a role in ini­ti­at­ing the cam­paign.

The ef­fort also ex­tends to other health care providers, such as med­i­cal staff in the emer­gency rooms of lo­cal hos­pi­tals, he stressed. “We have to share that aware­ness with them, too.”

CLIF­FORD SKARSTEDT EX­AM­INER

Para­medic Stephanie Dug­gan next to a zero tol­er­ance for vi­o­lence against paramedics am­bu­lance sticker, with Paramedics Chief Randy Mel­low.

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