Liberal MP leads push to protect flying doctor staff

PROTECTION: Medical staff aboard Royal Flying Doctor Service planes will be protected from adverse incidents under a proposal by a Liberal MP.
PROTECTION: Medical staff aboard Royal Flying Doctor Service planes will be protected from adverse incidents under a proposal by a Liberal MP.

New safeguards have been proposed for Royal Flying Doctor Service staff in the wake of fears about violent patients or those spreading serious diseases.

Liberal Stuart MP and Opposition frontbencher Dan van Holst Pellekaan moved in state parliament to amend the Criminal Law (Forensic Procedures) Act.

It would include the service on the employment list under “emergency service provider” that can require an offender who spits or bites them to have a blood-test.

Mr van Holst Pellekaan asked the state government to enable courts to consider a range of crimes against the workers as an aggravated offence.

The workers would have the same rights as police, fire-fighters, ambulance crews, prison guards, doctors and nurses.

“We would all agree that is a worthy list, but when it was put together, the flying doctor service was accidentally omitted,” he told the House of Assembly.

“There is good sound logic for some extra protection for people whose job it is … to insert themselves in harm's way.

“I thank Courtney White from the service in Marree for coming to me with this issue.

“It is timely that we are having this debate here in the chamber the day after we debated Gayle's Law, and there are some similar parallels.

”Gayle's Law, of course, is slightly different. It is the product of an incredibly unfortunate incident that happened to a nurse working in the Far North of the state.

“The flying doctor service is an absolutely outstanding organisation.

“I am sure every parliamentarian would agree it is an extraordinary organisation without which many people would have suffered unnecessarily and many people would have died unnecessarily across Australia, not just South Australia.

“Their base at Port Augusta is one of the most important in the nation.

”At times, they have to deal with people who for a range of reasons may not be thinking clearly and who may not receive the care that is on offer in the way we would typically think is appropriate.

“It could be because they are affected by drugs or alcohol; it could be because they have been in a vehicle accident.

“They have some form of shock and they are in a place or situation they are not familiar with, they are not comfortable with, they do not know what is going on and they are just not thinking clearly.”

“It could happen for a whole range of reasons. Regardless of the reason, the people who work for the Royal Flying Doctor Service deserve this protection, if it is needed, in exactly the same way as all other emergency service workers and other responders deserve as well.

“I genuinely and earnestly seek the government's support to change this law and to change these regulations.”