Paramedics to trial body cameras in bid to catch criminals
Paramedics in three high-risk areas will be fitted with body cameras as part of a 12-month trial by the state government to catch offenders who assault frontline emergency workers.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard today announced paramedics from Liverpool in Sydney's west, Eveleigh, in the inner city, and Newcastle will begin the trial immediately.
It forms part of a $48 million investment by the state government to improve the safety of frontline health staff.
"The complete concept here is to make sure our paramedics are not punching bags - they are there to look after you," Mr Hazzard said.
"They are not to put themselves at risk but if they happen to find themselves in there you will find them switching on the candid camera and if you're committing a criminal act, you will be charged."
Mr Hazzard said he would look to roll the cameras out across the state if the trial is a success.
NSW Ambulance Commissioner Dominic Morgan said it would make a big difference in paramedics' ability to deter violent situations and convey their experience.
He said it would work in tandem with other initiatives the organisation has undertaken including training paramedics in occupational violence de-escalation and trying to increase the reporting of incidents.
"Sadly, many paramedics have historically thought occupational violence is a part of the job and as the Commissioner of this organisation … we don't see occupational violence as part of the job of a paramedic," Mr Morgan said.
"In the last 12-months we've had now 400 reported incidents of occupational violence and many of those range from kicking and pushing paramedics down to spitting on people."
"Who does that sort of behaviour? We want to be very, very clear that we are going to have protections that will support them."
Mr Morgan said that as a result of training the injury rate for paramedics has dropped by almost half.
"The investment is working, the training is working - today's announcement is but one more investment in keeping our paramedics safe," he said.
The state government has also deployed 13 extra security officers across Gosford, Wyong and Blacktown hospitals as part of a 12-week security pilot.
The aim of the trial is to identify and prevent potential incidents before they escalate.