Home Workplace News Peterborough Paramedics taking ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to violence against front-line workers

Peterborough Paramedics taking ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to violence against front-line workers

By Brendan Burke | Peterborough Examiner

Peterborough County-City Paramedics is employing a zero-tolerance approach to  violence against first responders after both a  paramedic and a police officer were assaulted over the weekend — part of an  ongoing problem that needs to end, Paramedics Chief Randy Mellow says. 

“Violence against paramedics is an ongoing reality that must stop,” Mellow  stated in a press release. 

The violence can include physical or verbal abuse, bullying or threats,  sexual assault and harassment.

According to Peterborough County-City Paramedics, paramedics most frequently  endure “pushing, punching, scratching, kicking, slapping, biting, or the use of  weapons,” from patients, patients’ family or friends, bystanders and  colleagues.

The long-standing issue is only getting worse, according to Mellow. 

“The frequency of incidents of violence against paramedics has risen over the  last two to three years. We have already brought attention to this several times  publicly. Now, we are applying zero tolerance,” he said. 

Violence against paramedics was brought to the table last month when Mellow  met with the president of the Paramedic Chiefs of Canada in Ottawa for  discussions with staff from the Prime Minister’s Office along with cabinet  ministers, MPs and senators to advocate for a number of issues facing  paramedics. 

Peterborough County Warden Bonnie Clark said she stands with local paramedics  and police in condemning the rising violence against employees. 

“Coming from the health-care system myself, as a retired registered nurse, I  know this violence all too well; seen it firsthand,” Clark stated. 

“We need to take care of those who are taking care of us. There is no excuse  for violence against those who have dedicated their lives to helping others.

“I know, I speak for all of Peterborough County councillors, when I say, we  demand respect and appreciation for our paramedics and all those in front-line  health care. We stand by our paramedics with the call to police when these  actions take place. Zero tolerance.”

Polls in recent years show how prevalent the issue of violence against  paramedics and health-care professionals is. 

In July, 55 per cent of workers polled at Peterborough Regional Health Centre  and at Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay said they experienced physical violence  at work while 52 per cent said they have seen an increase in violent incidents  throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In a 2014 study of Canadian paramedics, 75 per cent reported experiencing  violence, while 74 per cent reported facing multiple forms of violence. Of the  1,676 paramedics who participated in the study, 67 per cent reported verbal  abuse, 41 per cent reported intimidation, 26 per cent reported physical assault,  four per cent reported sexual harassment and three per cent reported sexual  assault. 

“People don’t understand how dangerous the job can be, just as it can be in  other health care professions,” Mellow said. 

Earlier this week, the provincial government announced it is establishing a  paramedic services committee under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to  develop resources that tackle the unique health and safety faced by front-line  workers. The move is meant to protect the health and safety of paramedics in  Ontario. 

OHSA committees, formed under Section 21 of the Act, are made up of employer  and labour representatives who provide the government with technical support and  advice of health and safety issues, including making recommendations on  regulatory changes. 

The new paramedic services committee will support the existing first  responders committee for fire and police services.

“I am pleased with the announcement of the paramedic (services committee)  that is truly focused on the health and safety of the paramedics that dedicate  their careers to public service,” Mellow told The Examiner. 

“I am confident that establishing a collaborative committee, as outlined in  the announcement, will provide for improved safeguards for the physical,  emotional and psychological well-being of our paramedics.”

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