28 April 2020
The ANMF (SA Branch) strongly supports a proposed new crackdown on people who assault frontline hospital staff and emergency workers.
The crackdown aims to deny such offenders bail and comes amid alarming figures revealed by The Advertiser which show almost 3,700 emergency workers have been attacked in the past 5½ years while trying to save lives and protect the public.
Attorney-General Vickie Chapman will introduce the plans to have bail automatically refused for people who assault frontline workers, including health care professionals, into State Parliament this week. The change would apply for the current pandemic emergency declaration.
However, the SA Police Association wants the changes made permanent, not just during the coronavirus period.
The State Opposition has drafted proposed laws of up to 10 years in jail for anyone who has or claims to be infected with coronavirus and assaults a frontline worker, such as a nurse or midwife.
Ms Chapman told The Advertiser she wanted the “toughening up” of bail for all frontline worker assaults. “Our frontline staff continue to be the real heroes in this pandemic.
“They are putting the health of the community above their own needs, and we need to ensure they are adequately protected,’’ she was quoted in the paper.
“Offenders who cause harm to or assault these workers will need to show special circumstances why their bail should not automatically be refused.”
A new law introduced last October mandates prison sentences of up to 15 years for anyone who causes harm to, or assaults an emergency services worker in the line of duty. Since then 49 people have been arrested.
ANMF (SA Branch) CEO/Secretary Adj. Associate Professor Elizabeth Dabars AM said nurses, midwives, care workers and other health professionals “have a right to travel to and from work safely and to work in a safe environment’’.
“They should not be looking over their shoulder wondering if they might be assaulted or abused on that day,’’ Ms Dabars said.
“In particular, during the current coronavirus crisis our members have been steadfast in their commitment to caring for the community, making many sacrifices and placing themselves in the frontline to fight this hidden killer. They should be thanked and protected.
“We have been lobbying successive state governments for better laws and stronger enforcement of those laws to protect our members from assault and violence.
“We have sought laws that increase penalties because greater penalties may act to deter assaults in the first place,’’ Ms Dabars said.
“One of our deep frustrations has been that the law itself may be improved but there is no evidence of the changed law being put into practice.
“We firmly believe a zero-tolerance approach is the right way to proceed - with total elimination of violence the goal.
“Sadly, violence and aggression continue to be a feature of our health system.
“We therefore welcome the State Government’s actions to strengthen laws that protect, and deter violence against, our frontline health workers.
“We strongly support measures that prevent and deter offending against nurses, midwives, care workers and other health professionals.’’