Port Augusta a "hotspot" for violence against ambulance officers, says union

ABUSE: Port Augusta has been labelled a "hotspot" for violence against ambulance officers.
ABUSE: Port Augusta has been labelled a "hotspot" for violence against ambulance officers.

Port Augusta has been labelled a "hotspot" for violence against ambulance workers by a state union with calls for harsher penalties against those who assault paramedics.

Punching, hitting, verbal insults and death threats are just some of the abuse Port Augusta's local ambulance officers face on a daily basis, according to Ambulance Employees Association of South Australia secretary Phil Palmer.

Violence against ambulance officers has been the subject of much statewide media attention recently, however, the issue came under the spotlight closer to home this week after a local ambulance officer was stabbed while defending a patient on Thursday morning.

Mr Palmer said the association was absolutely "appalled" to hear of the attack against the officer, citing it as the worst in a series of incidents in Port Augusta.

"Port Augusta itself is a particular problem for our members, there's lots of abuse and assaults..it's a hotspot if you like, for violence against ambulance workers up there," he said.

"We've raised the issue with management about Port Augusta and the concerns through our members there, who tell us they face this on a daily basis and a shift-by-shift basis."

The situation has reportedly become so severe that in some instances, the abuse follows officers home, with some paramedics receiving death threats and notes on their doorsteps and letterboxes.

"Our members are out there, putting themselves on the line, trying to help people, and they don't need people smacking them and stabbing them and abusing them and indecently assaulting them - it's got to stop," Mr Palmer said.

"Our members are only there to help - that's all."

"Port Augusta itself is a particular problem for our members, there's lots of abuse and assaults..it's a hotspot"

AEASA secretary Phil Palmer

The association has recently been pushing for harsher penalties against those who assault ambulance officers, suggesting the current justice system is too lenient. 

Mr Palmer said harsher penalties need to be put in place to send a clear message out that this violence and abuse against ambulance officers will no longer be tolerated.

"We've also got concerns that the magistrates, the prosecutors just don't seem to be taking it very seriously," he said.

"The sooner there's a really strong message to those people in the community who think this is alright, the better it's going to be for our members.

"There does need to be penalties - people need to suffer the consequences of their behaviour."

In a statement, SA Ambulance Service chief executive officer Robert Morton said SAAS has also been disappointed with some recent sentencing. 

"We respect the independence and autonomy of the judicial system, however, we are disappointed in the in sentencing in some recent cases," Mr Morton said.

As for the most recent incident against a female officer in Port Augusta, the association's stance is clear.

"When it does finally get to the court for sentencing, we want him [the offender] thrown in jail," Mr Palmer said.