After alarming rise, Niagara EMS taking steps to protect workers from on-the-job abuse


Published October 11, 2023 at 12:31 pm

Niagara EMS
Both Niagara EMS and Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley are looking for tougher measures against anyone displaying verbal abuse, physical assault and sexual harassment against front-line workers.

The alarming rise in verbal abuse, physical assault, and sexual harassment faced by Niagara Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers has got the group pulling together to protect the safety of paramedics, dispatchers, and other staff.

Even Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley has jumped into the fray to express his concerns.

“Ensuring the safety of our paramedics and other first responders is paramount. We stand united in our commitment to protect these dedicated first responders from any form of violence from the public,” said Bradley.

In Niagara, reported incidents of violence toward front-line EMS staff have increased by 53 per cent since 2018 and was seriously exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic when treatment of all medical staff got progressively worse.

“Our Niagara EMS Paramedics, Emergency Medical Dispatchers, and staff work hard to provide medical care to those who need help, at any time. They are always ready to respond when the unexpected happens,” said Rick Ferron, Chief of Niagara Emergency Medical Services.

However, he added, “The abuse and violence they have had to deal with while trying to do their jobs, however, is unacceptable. No healthcare worker should ever have to face this type of behaviour. We are working hard to do all we can to make sure our staff feel as safe and supported as possible while doing their important work.”

Verbal abuse, physical assault, and sexual harassment against Niagara EMS paramedics and staff is not okay, added Ferron. “Those who do so could be charged.”

To that end, some of the steps Niagara EMS is taking to address this issue include:

  • Collaborating with Niagara Regional Police to develop improved communication
  • Providing staff with crisis intervention training
  • Encouraging and improving reporting
  • Enhancing policies and procedures
  • Providing wellness and resilience-building resources to front-line staff

At the regional level, Bradley said he wrote a letter to the federal Minister of Justice (Arif Virani) to request amendments to the Criminal Code through Bill C-321 and provide protections for first responders. The bill recognizes the physical and psychological impact of assaults against paramedics and that they should be protected from harm on the job.

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