Remembering My friend Helen

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Some of you may remember “My Friend Helen”

It starts,

“I have a friend Helen. She was a lovely person, she was a great paramedic, awesome mother and staunch unionist. Over the years I have learnt a lot from Helen, not only about being a better Paramedic, but also a better human being. She had a great interest in others, and their rights and stood up for them via her work with the union and community groups.”

Helen took her own life in 2013. One night she entered an ambulance station, opened the drug safe and took a fatal overdose of fentanyl.

The wheels of justice in Victoria turn slowly, and the coroner has finally got around to Helen. Unfortunately, according to Helen’s union the coroner doesn’t see any point to an inquest into Helen’s death.

The Coroner is apparently satisfied that Helen’s employer Ambulance Victoria has changed its drug procedures so that this situation can not occur again.

I am at a loss to understand this opinion. Not only can it happen again, but it already has. Most recently late last year.

I have spoken to many currently serving paramedics, and they all tell me the same thing. That while Ambulance Victoria has gone to great lengths placing surveillance on the drug safes at stations I cannot really myself see how this will deter someone who intends to be dead by the time any wrongdoing is discovered.

Apart from that, in a practical sense, nothing has changed.

The coroner also apparently feels that Helen’s problems were her own, and nothing to do with her employer.

This is despite the fact that many of Helen’s collegues have criticised how Ambulance Victoria treats its staff. This is also despite the fact that Helen’s partner Cath (above left) has also spoken quite publicly about poor treatment and lack of support by Ambulance Victoria in numerous publications such as the  Daily Mail or news.com as well as on television.

The coroners own research found that paramedics take their own lives at least four times more often than other occupations.

Helen’s Union the Ambulance Employees Association – Victoria believes this number represents an undereporting of the true figures.

So how the Victorian Coroner can come to this conclusion is quite remarkable I believe. I simply don’t understand what this decision is based on when all the above information can be illicited by a simple google search.

It would seem that Coroners investigations in Victoria  aren’t so much Elliot Ness as much as Elliot Goblet

 

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2 Responses to Remembering My friend Helen

  1. Dissapointed says:

    Couldn’t agree more with you ! I’m at a loss to be working in an environment that has become so toxic and blaming that since the most recent loss of one of our own in Geelong ( and may I add a disclaimer here that there still remains a common misconception unfortunately distributed by the union that Anikka took her own life, there is no proof of this and once again we wait on a coroners inquest) that AV have done nothing to assist or even recognise the trauma its employees are undergoing .. How many paramedics do we all know that consume way too much alcohol?? Plenty! Alcohol the drug we all know as the leading cause of violence death and disability… So what happens when paramedics are left with large quantities of a strong opioid? Well, some experiment , some become addicted, some use as a source of self treatment be that through death or numbness… Neither use of alcohol or opioids is appropriate for what emergency service workers go through however unfortunately many do use it as a crutch to lean on..

    Now the service has rectified the remaining quantities of excess opioids and beefed up its security…this is a good thing… What is NOT A GOOD THING is the rhetoric coming from our management… Recently there has been a PowerPoint presentation distributed to AV employees outlining the new medication management process, what has been omitted is the last page… On this page is senior management threatening to sack any employee regardless of term of service or personal situation that so much as makes a “mistake” in the new protocol… I mean seriously, we have all lost colleagues and what do we get from our employer, threats of loss of employment!!! How about AV accepting there are pyschological issues with your staff and pro actively offering assistance, therapy, treatment.. I can hear management now “but we have the vaccu unto at hand” so there responsibility has been met, right? WRONG….. Make a positive step put your foot forward and make a public stance , make a proclamation that , yes we have big issues, yep we have taken and are taking steps to make out medications less accessible, but more importantly we are here to help those that feel it necessary to help themselves…
    16 years in this job I’ve had one psychological breakdown , got no help from my employer or their insurer, I am better now but who knows if it will happen again???

    Look after us AV, stop being the dictator and be a shoulder to cry on..

    Dissapointed employer

  2. Jo & Steve Gibbs says:

    ENOUGH IS ENOUGH FROM CRITICAL RESPONSE.

    For too long we along with others have waited for Justice and Accountability. I read the story about the Ambulance Paramedics and their suicides. The Coroner sides with AV, siting that they have changed policies and procedures, seriously is the Coroner that naïve?

    Meanwhile more Paramedics take their lives accessing their work stations to achieve their purpose. An organisation with some serious bullying issues, contributing to deteriorating mental health in some of their employees and the Coroner allows deaths to continue.
    Years ago I was taught that the Coroner was the most powerful person in the land, they were fiercely independent and dogged in their approach to investigating deaths. They weren’t afraid of politics and THEY WEREN’T AFRAID OF THE TRUTH.

    Today they are slow and overworked. The end result is to trim off as many cases as they can, lower the work rate. The modern Coroner is afraid of the TRUTH, they accept Solicitor typed general responses from organisations.

    How many Paramedic suicides will it take, how many broken families will be abandoned? A series of deaths demands a full Coronial Hearing. Paramedic Suicides, Late Response Times are series of deaths.

    So enough is really enough, we speak with families who have had the Truth altered by AV. Families who develop such distrust for AV and the Coroner they fall by the wayside.
    Our story is real, our conversations are recorded. The conduct of AV needs to be fully investigated by the Coroner or IBAC. We challenge the Coroner or IBAC to listen to the evidence.
    AV accessed a defibrillator, without permission. They did it under the context of servicing the defibrillator, but later changed their story. As a Senior Union Official said ‘they re tampering with evidence, I am embarrassed to be associated with them’
    And the words of a Solicitor “Perverting the course of justice, wow”
    The Coroner accepts this behaviour. The evidence on this machine is gone. The Coroner THE TRUTH IS STILL THERE.

    IBAC we have the recordings.

    Enough is enough. Grievances can be aired publicly or through the system, it is time that the system decides how this is done.

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