Paramedics in the Australian state of Victoria will get high tech body cameras as part of a new trial to keep them safe from the rising rates of violence they are experiencing on the job.
Paramedics at St Vincent’s and Epworth hospitals, and from Point Cook Branch and Sunbury branch, will wear body cameras attached to their uniforms when responding to volatile medical emergencies, from next week onwards.
The six month trial will be progressively rolled out in June and July to 27 branches, involving up to 550 paramedics and around 150 cameras.
Paramedics are at high risk of occupational violence because they are at the frontline of stressful and unpredictable medical emergencies.During the last financial year, paramedics attended more than 5,000 emergencies where they were exposed to violence or aggression, an average of 13 cases every day. These figures continue to rise every year.
The cameras are similar to those worn by police. They will not record all emergency cases but will record only those incidents where paramedics are in danger. Paramedics who opt to wear the cameras will start recording if they feel at risk or are threatened, warning people they are being filmed. Vision can then be used as evidence for police investigations and prosecutions.
Premier Daniel Andrews said, “We’re sending a strong message – violence and aggression towards paramedics is never OK. This trial is just one of the ways we are working to keep our dedicated paramedics safe while they are out on the job, saving lives.”
AU$500,000 is being assigned from the Health Service Violence Prevention Fund (HSVPF)to trial the cameras. Earlier this month the Labor Government doubled its investment in the Fund to $40 million to make Victoria’s hospitals and mental health services safer.
The HSVPF is being rolled out over four years – from 2015-16 to 2018-19 – and it includes grants for hospitals and health services, mental health services and Ambulance Services.
Round 3 (2017-18) of the fund is now open till July 28, in which AU$7 million is being allocated. Funding could be used to provide personal security devices or to install security cameras, modify rooms or create separate families’ and children’s waiting rooms.
In the first round 33 health services received $3 million to improve their facilities, making them safer for staff, patients and visitors. The second round provided more than $7 million in 2016-17 to 32 rural and metropolitan health services, including acute hospitals and mental health facilities. Safety and security upgrades included CCTV personal duress devices and alarms, and new infrastructure such as security doors, windows and restricted access areas.