Ambo sues government for $400k

THE ambulance union has backed a woman officer’s claim for a $400,000-plus payout after she was hurt helping a colleague who was being strangled by a drunk patient.

Central Queensland’s Kim Sheree MacDonald, 35, is suing the state, claiming it failed in its duty of care to protect her.

Ms MacDonald suffered back and shoulder injuries after grabbing the crazed attacker’s legs and helping to restrain him before police arrived in the 2005 incident at Gladstone.

With the number of attacks on paramedics on the rise, a union leader yesterday said any officer who could no longer work in the industry because of the behaviour of “a grub” had a right to seek justice.

Ms MacDonald, of Gladstone, had to stop the unit she was driving to go to her colleague’s aid.

The attacker was screaming he wanted to kill himself and attempting to place his hands around the paramedic’s neck.

A claim for damages, lodged last week with the Supreme Court at Rockhampton, carries a list of alleged state shortcomings including the failure to provide ambulance staff with self-defence training, not allowing staff to sedate aggressive patients, not providing an alarm system in ambulances that would enable officers to call for assistance and not having adequate protective barriers between patients and officers in vehicles.

It says in 2003 the state changed from allowing officers to use a wrist restraint on violent people, to providing a five-point harness in some units.

Her colleague had not applied the harness because it was either not available or was not located near him. The patient was placed with two stretcher straps over him.

Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union state organiser Jason Dutton said ambulance officers needed protection from violent people. He said following union lobbying, self-defence training was set to be introduced next month for paramedics.

“This won’t reduce the number of attacks, but should help lessen the severity of injuries,” Mr Dutton said.

He said on average two paramedics were attacked each week in Queensland and the seriousness of injuries was getting worse.

“It’s deplorable that a small minority think they can use ambos as punching bags,” Mr Dutton said. “We have to fix this problem.”

While he didn’t rule out the future capacity to routinely sedate violent patients, he said other measures should be tried first.

Meanwhile, Ms MacDonald’s claim also detailed a separate incident in which she suffered injury.

In March, 2007, she was helping a pregnant woman onto a stretcher so she could be transferred to Rockhampton Hospital, when she hurt her back and shoulder.

The claim says the T26 model stretcher was known to have an operational defect because its automatic legs didn’t always lock into place.

Ms MacDonald allegedly injured herself as she was checking to see if the legs had locked in. The pregnant woman had placed her weight on the stretcher.

The claim says the state had failed to correct the defects in the stretcher and to provide a stretcher which avoided a large amount of manual lifting.

Her claim is for $430,546, which includes $230,641 for future economic loss.

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