As many of you will know, there have been significant changes to Ambulance Victoria in recent years. We have a new board, a new CEO, and arguably a new lease on life. I am excited by the changes, and I think we are going in a good direction. One of the key issues management is addressing is paramedic health and safety, which is fantastic. Paramedicine is inherently unpredictable, and sometimes dangerous, for a variety of reasons.
One of these reasons is violence towards paramedics from patients or bystanders. On this note, there has been an announcement from AV and government this week that we will be trialing body worn cameras for paramedics to reduce occupational violence.
This makes me a little uncomfortable. Reducing occupational violence is important, and I absolutely believe that the organisation is genuine in their desire to improve paramedic safety.
I’m not sure that cameras will achieve that though. Indeed, in the media campaign, a paramedic recounts being assaulted – while police were on scene. If uniformed, armed law enforcement officers being present doesn’t stop assault occurring, I’m not sure that cameras will. Violence towards paramedics is a complex issue, with drug and alcohol use, and mental health issues being common factors. I am not excusing assault of emergency workers, however I don’t know that those who will swing a punch at a uniformed paramedic will be thinking through the ramifications of their actions given the other issues they often have.
With regards to recording patients, issues of consent and privacy also concern me. I am sure AV and government have carefully considered all of these issues and have suitable structures in place to ensure the proper use, as well as storage, and security of footage, however at this stage no detail is available.
Nonetheless, I asked Dr Michael Eburn, barrister and Associate Professor at ANU his opinion on body worn cameras for paramedics. Dr Eburn writes the Emergency Law blog, covering legal issues specific to emergency work, and is also the author of the textbook Emergency Law. Dr Eburn’s post can be read below:
I shared the link to the story on the ABC on the FaceBook page for this blog. There have been a number of comments on the story as well as some questions sent to me so this post will try to deal w…