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Ambos in the firing line

The ever-rising use of ice throughout NSW has contributed to 24 assaults against South West NSW paramedics in the past year.

Amid reports that ambulance staff are refusing to treat patients they have reason to believe are under the influence of ice without a police presence with them, Tumut Ambulance Station Manager John Larter said the issue is as prevalent in Tumut as every else in the state.

“It happens,” he said. “You have to be very wary of a situation when you attend to it.”

“We get calls to drug related incidents – there’s the potential for somebody to be injured in many of these cases, but the paramedics at Tumut have a lot of experience, most of us have been doing this for 20 years plus.

“Drugs are unfortunately one aspect of the job and you just have to be mindful of it.”

However, Mr Larter added that the focus on violent ice users is really only one aspect of a job that is more dangerous than many might think.

He is currently involved in a case that has not yet been put before the courts, in which a man allegedly assaulted Mr Larter and another paramedic while they were simply trying to do their jobs.

In this case he was a third party who basically came out of nowhere and started throwing punches, the court will hear.

“He wasn’t the patient. It was a domestic situation – the woman was allegedly assaulted and had some injuries and a child was involved, and then he came out of nowhere,” Mr Larter explained.

He said that Tumut paramedics will frequently have to consider their own well-being during the course of a given day, with the huge variety of calls they attend each bringing with them unique risks.

“It’s no different to going to a motor vehicle accident and having cars fly by at 120 kilometres an hour on the freeway while you’re treating someone by the side of the road.

You could be out in the bush where there are snakes around – there’s different hazards in different situations.

“Essentially we’re there to treat people who are injured or sick but we don’t want to become injured or sick ourselves. We’re no good to anyone if we’re knocked out on the ground.

“There’s that overriding sense that you want to assist, but you also have to get home to your family at the end of the day too.”