Addressing bullying inside the Hunter arm of NSW Ambulance and stopping violence towards paramedics on the streets are top priorities for the organisation's new northern NSW boss.
As NSW Ambulance Deputy Director of Clinical Operations, Inspector Jordan Emery will oversee about 600 staff across 45 stations from Lake Macquarie to the northwest of the state.
In an interview with the Herald on Wednesday, Inspector Emery said he wanted to review how the organisation ran and addressed "workplace grievances".
In 2016, the Newcastle Herald reported on allegations of bullying and intimidation at the Northern Control Centre at Charlestown.
NSW Parliament in 2017 held a formal inquiry into bullying in emergency service ranks, including NSW Ambulance - with the organisation's chief executive telling the inquiry bullying was happening at a rate that "would not be considered acceptable to us or the broader community".
In 2018, Lake Macquarie paramedic Tony Jenkins took his own life - the Herald reported at the time he was the region's third serving ambulance worker to do so in a decade.
Inspector Emery said on Wednesday he wanted to ensure staff were receiving "the best support" and that they had opportunities to speak with him about issues in the workplace.
"It's no secret there have been significant cultural challenges in Hunter New England - that's been reflected in staff surveys and that's been reflected in people's experience," he said.
"There's been a lot of hurt amongst the team here, we've seen paramedic suicide - Anthony Jenkins' death is one example - we know that there's been concerns raised by staff about bullying and harassment, about not being heard, about not being able to contribute positively to the organisation - that's what I want to disrupt, that's what I want to turn around."
While he has been working with NSW Ambulance for 12 years, Inspector Emery represents young blood in a senior management position at 32-years-old.
He trained as an intensive care paramedic, working on the frontline across metropolitan Sydney before taking a job as Executive Staff Officer to the NSW Ambulance Chief Executive.
He then moved into operational management roles within the organisation.
Inspector Emery's most recent posting before arriving in Newcastle last month was as zone manager of Western Sydney, where he oversaw 250 paramedics.
He said he saw Hunter New England as "an incredible opportunity to do good" and drive change.
"The Newcastle and New England area as well are known for [having] incredible paramedics - really clinically-focused, great patient advocates," he said.
As the Newcastle Herald has reported over the past 12 months, assaults and violence against frontline emergency service workers such as paramedics and police has been an ongoing problem in the Hunter.
The high rate of assaults on staff from the Hamilton ambulance station meant it was one of three - along with Liverpool and inner Sydney - to be chosen for a year-long body-cam trial from last November to help provide evidence in the prosecution of those who attack frontline workers.
The cameras could be rolled out across the state if the trial is successful.
Figures obtained by the Newcastle Herald show that there have been 23 assaults against paramedics in the Newcastle area so far this year - seven people remain before the courts in relation to alleged incidents. The Herald understands the city is in the top three worst affected locations in NSW.
Inspector Emery said he believed cases of assault against paramedics were being under-reported.
He said Newcastle was a "hot spot" for violence against paramedics.
"I think a lot of paramedics just go about their business and have tragically become a little indifferent or have come to accept that that sort of violence is acceptable, so they don't always report it," he said.
"They just see it as par for the course - that is what we have to put a stop to."
The issue of violence against paramedics was "a huge concern", Inspector Emery said, and the key to reducing it would be to work collaboratively with police and with at-risk groups in the community "where we know violence is a feature".
"I will not have these amazing people going out every day and providing incredible clinical care and being subjected to violence ... whether that's by a patient, whether that's by family members, whether that's by bystanders on the street," he said.
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