A Melbourne paramedic has allegedly been punched in the face and spat at by an alcohol-affected patient, amid a row over mandatory sentencing laws for similar attacks.
The senior officer, 44, suffered back and facial injuries after being called to a house in Epping, in Melbourne’s north, about 12.40am on Thursday.
A 22-year-old man reportedly fell unconscious after drinking excessively and shouted abuse and spat at paramedics after he was awoken.
The patient was given some sedation but the violence allegedly continued.
“As they wheeled him on a stretcher to the ambulance, the patient lunged at one of the paramedics, punching him in the face,” Ambulance Victoria said in a statement.
“This caused the stretcher to tip and the paramedic grabbed the stretcher to stop it from falling, resulting in the paramedic taking the full weight of the stretcher and the patient in his outstretched arms.”
The paramedic was treated for severe back pain after transferring the patient to hospital and was later admitted for care himself.
Police are investigating.
The incident comes after two women, Amanda Warren, 33, and Caris Underwood, 20, had their jail sentences for assaulting a paramedic in 2016 quashed on appeal.
The County Court decision prompted the Victorian government to flag a review of the mandatory minimum six-month term for attacking emergency service workers unless there are special reasons.
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Premier Daniel Andrews admitted that loophole needed to be “fixed” but said the government would not rush the process.
“We’re going to take the time to get this right. Poor drafting is perhaps one of the reasons we are … talking about this,” he said on Thursday.
“The other reason is, of course, that some people think it’s OK to behave this way.”
Assaults on paramedics dropped from 234 to 147 in 2017 but crews still faced abuse, Ambulance Victoria boss Tony Walker said.
“Every 50 hours a paramedic is actually either physically or verbally assaulted,” he told parliament’s public accounts and estimates committee on Thursday.
“And they’re reporting being exposed to about 14 events a day where violence or aggression was part of the scene.”
In a statement, Mr Walker said it was “extremely disappointed” with the County Court decision and it was a difficult time for the paramedics affected.
“We have worked hard in the past two years to make significant changes at Ambulance Victoria to ensure that the safety of our hard working paramedics is our number one priority,” he said.