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Niagara EMS taking steps to address violence toward front line staff

Front line staff at Niagara EMS regularly face incidents of violence on the job, including verbal abuse, physical assault and/or sexual harassment
File photo of an ambulance, fire and police. Bob Liddycoat / Thorold News

With rising numbers of reported incidents of violence against front line staff, Niagara Emergency Medical Services (Niagara EMS) is taking steps to protect the safety of paramedics, dispatchers and other staff.

Front line staff at Niagara EMS regularly face incidents of violence (e.g., verbal abuse, physical assault and/or sexual harassment) on the job. These incidents are increasing and often go underreported presenting a significant but common challenge to the profession. In Niagara, reported incidents of violence toward front line staff have increased by 53 per cent since 2018. 

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

In response to a motion at the Oct. 10 meeting of the Public Health and Social Services Committee, Regional Chair Jim Bradley will also write a letter to the federal Minister of Justice to request amendments to the Criminal Code through Bill C-321 and provide protections for first responders. Bill C-321, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (assaults against health care professionals and first responders), recently passed second reading in the House of Commons and has been passed to committee. It recognizes the physical and psychological impact of assaults against paramedics and that they should be protected from harm on the job.

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

“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. The abuse and violence they have had to deal with while trying to do their jobs, however, is unacceptable. No health care 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.” 
Rick Ferron, Chief, Niagara Emergency Medical Services

“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. On behalf of Regional Council, I respectfully call on the Federal Government to make the changes necessary to the criminal code to help keep our first responders safe."
Jim Bradley, Regional Chair

Anyone who witnesses violence or threats against Niagara EMS paramedics and staff are asked to call 911. Harassment and abuse can be reported by calling the Niagara Regional Police at 905-688-4111. Documenting and reporting can help police stop it from happening again.