More than a dozen Calgary paramedics filed into a courtroom on Tuesday, donning orange ribbons around their arms in support of one of their own who was the victim of an alleged assault earlier this year.
Olivia Chan and her paramedic colleagues are calling for more protection against on-the-job assaults, something she said she experienced first-hand in January 2019.
Chan testified Tuesday that she and her partner were responding to a medical call at a home in the northwest. When they arrived, the patient was unconscious and, after several unsuccessful attempts to wake the man, Chan and the others decided to take him to hospital by moving him onto a tarp.
According to her testimony, the man came to and lunged at her.
“I was scared. I felt like my life was being threatened at that point,” Chan testified.
Chan said she backed up to avoid him and tripped over a medical bag. She fell and suffered a torn rotator cuff in her right shoulder.
“It was terrifying, terrifying because as a health care professional, in our job, helping the public, and having things turned around where people want to hurt us in the same stance… it’s terrifying to know that that is a risk I’m walking into,” Chan said outside court.
Violence on the job is something her colleagues said they also see on a regular basis.
Paramedic Kara Sallows, who also testified in court, said she wants more people to understand that they are only there to help.
“We are here to help. I don’t carry a gun. I don’t carry a taser. I carry a blood pressure cuff.”
Richard Agnew, an advanced care paramedic, also joined the more than a dozen people in court to support Chan. He echoed the call for more and better supports for those who experience violence.
Agnew wants harsher penalties for those who cross the line. He wants similar protections as police officers.
“Under the Criminal Code, police officers are protected, public transit operators are protected, and even police dogs, police animals are protected. We’re looking to change the Criminal Code so that paramedics are protected in the same way,” he said.
John Goumas is charged with assault causing bodily harm. The judge has reserved his decision in the case.