When angry entitlement makes it worse

A weekend incident at Melton South where a football player was badly injured during the game and was confronted with a lengthy delay for treatment  has inflamed opinions on the appropriate course of action for paramedics in an emergency situation.

The problem with the delays in this case was that when the paramedic team arrived, they were confronted with a reaction from those at the scene that led to them signalling it as posing an unacceptable risk. The emergency for the patient becomes the emergency for the service workers. 

While there can be little doubt there was plenty of emotion running around following the injury, the result was not the best possible outcome for patient treatment. As per Ambulance Victoria procedure, in such circumstances Paramedics would only return with police escort  meaning almost a further two hour delay for the hurt player.

While it is understandable at disquiet at delays of more than 45 minutes for the paramedics to arrive, these delays are most likely based on the priority assessments of the call centre and Ambulance Victoria. Moreover that triage call on whether a broken leg requires more urgency than say a cardiac arrest or car smash, has nothing to to do with the paramedics themselves who are simply answering the next job on their list.

If people were misguided enough to vent their anger at the messengers in this case, it was intemperate and misguided and worse, appears to have inadvertently prolonged the agony of the footballer.

For those who consider the steps the ambos took as an over-reaction, it is worth considering what paramedics potentially face everyday when they go from one fraught scene to another. Melton South has claimed the abuse was on the minor scale but there is clearly a difference in estimation of what is acceptable or threatening to make paramedics walk away.

Paramedics may be devoted public servants but they are not crusaders and they don’t go to work each day to be abused or worse, even bashed. Yet 13 such incidents are reported per day across Victoria, with more than 300 recorded assaults in 2015.

Ambulance Victoria has a primary obligation to look after its employees who they insert into often highly emotional and sometimes desperate scenarios. They already have a “do not approach” list for repeat offenders and trouble addresses.

If we want their help the least we can do is return some respect.