Ambo crews under attack
By KUE DAVIS
COFFS Harbour Ambulance Service officers are at their wits' end, following a spate of violent assaults in past months.
In their dedication to saving lives and helping others, officers have been met with both physical and verbal abuse, which has worsened in recent times.
"We've had four assaults in the past month," acting station manager Martin Wells said.
He said although officers were always on edge, the spike in assaults in the recent months was disturbing.
"It is a part of the job, and we are always on edge, but the past month there have been much more than we're used to," he said.
"In one instance, officers were called out to a suspected overdose, and were greeted at the door by a woman wielding a knife.
"She had to be subdued and the police were called.
"In the most recent incident, officers were called out to a spider bite, and were in the ambulance treating the man when he just snapped.
"He threw two punches at the officer treating him, then lunged at the driver attempting to run the ambulance off the road."
Mr Wells said while the attacks were thought to have been drug or alcohol induced, people needed to be accountable for their actions.
"Previously, our main priority in these situations has been to our staff critical-incident debriefing and making sure they get adequate help, so we've tended not to press with the legal side.
"Now, while staff welfare is still our main priority, we have a zero-tolerance policy and any offender will have the full weight of the law upon them."
Mr Wells pointed out that assaulting an ambulance officer carried the same penalty as assaulting a police officer, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment.
"Especially at this time of year, we're urging people to take responsibility for their actions.
"We're just normal people out there trying to make a difference, and enough is enough."