Suspected Suicide Of Paramedics Being Investigated

Suspected Suicide Of Paramedics Being Investigated

Western Australia Minister for Health Kim Hames

‘Complex Mix Of Issues’ In Paramedic Suicides

Victor P Taffa

  • Chief Psychiatrist’s Review Report outlines seven recommendations for St. John Ambulance
  • Department of Health to monitor implementation of recommendations

A report into five suspected suicides of St. John Ambulance volunteers and paramedics found that it was ‘a complex mix of issues’, not solely their exposure to critical incidents that contributed to their deaths.

Health Minister Kim Hames today released the findings of a review by the Chief Psychiatrist’s Office, which sought to consider a range of factors including the role of ‘first responder’ and how these contributed to the deaths of the volunteers and paramedics between December 2013 and March 2015.

“The Chief Psychiatrist has offered to discuss the results of his review and his recommendations with the families of those deceased volunteers and paramedics and we are now in a position to publicly release the report.” Dr. Hames said.

“The investigation found there was little evidence that exposure to ‘critical incidents’ in their role as first responders was a key factor in the deaths of the volunteers and paramedics, but there was a complex mix of factors which contributed to these tragedies.”

“The five suspected suicides among the organisation’s 6,000 paramedics and volunteers over a period of 16 months were both a significant tragedy and a matter of concern for the Western Australian community.” Dr. Hames said.

“Thanks to the remarkable courage of the families, friends and colleagues of these individuals, and the co-operation and openness of St. John itself, the Chief Psychiatrist was able to thoroughly review these cases.”

“The report highlights the need for the St. John Ambulance organisation and indeed all organisations, to ensure adequate provisions are in place for staff wellbeing, support and engagement.” Dr. Hames said.

The Chief Psychiatrist’s report has made seven recommendations to assist St. John Ambulance in determining how it can help paramedics and volunteers deal with work and non-work related stress.

The recommendations, which were largely based on sensitive, confidential information provided to reviewers, include:

  • Increasing organisational ‘ownership’ in wellbeing and support services
  • Broadening the organisational response to the impact of suicide and traumatic death in the workplace
  • Improving conflict resolution in the workplace
  • Reviewing performance management processes
  • Reviewing the role of community paramedics, particularly in remote areas including the northern Goldfields region
  • Reviewing St. John’s volunteer recruitment process
  • Developing an employee engagement strategy and action plan.

The Minister said the preparation of the final report took longer than anticipated, with extra time required to consult with and interview a higher than expected number of individuals who wanted to provide information to the review team.

“The Chief Psychiatrist’s report was not intended as a broad review of St. John but was specific in considering the factors contributing to these specific deaths and making recommendations based on these cases.” Dr. Hames said.

“St. John Ambulance will consider the report findings and recommendations within broader organisational reviews currently underway and in the context of the significant work it already does in relation to supporting the health and wellbeing of its staff.”

Fact File

  • John Ambulance has 6,000 paramedics and volunteers in Western Australia
  • Five St. John Ambulance volunteers and paramedics died by suspected suicides between December 21, 2013 and March 30, 2015
  • The Department of Health will clarify St. John’s progress against the recommendations in late 2016