That’s the heading of article appearing on the Sydney Morning Herald Online.  The article says “The private paramedic company contracted to provide first aid services to the Stereosonic music festival has banned its staff from talking to NSW Police after the death of Sydney pharmacist Sylvia Choi.”

Of course I’m going to make no comment on the treatment of this young woman or the circumstances of her death, but I will comment on this post and many comments that appear on FaceBook.

Some commentators have said ‘What has this guy got to hide banning staff talking to police. Last time I heard hindering a police investigation was a crime’ and ‘pretty sure they have no choice, they will have to give a statement if asked’. In fact no-one has to answer police questions or give a statement to police.   The investigation agencies that can compel a person to answer questions are a Royal Commission or a standing institution like the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in NSW.   The agencies records will all be subject to subpoena or, if there is evidence of a crime, search warrant and a person can be compelled to give evidence in court but it’s pretty unusual to subpoena someone to come to court if you don’t know what they are going to say.

In the article the operator is quoted as saying ‘”They [NSW Police] come to me, I own the company, they don’t talk to anybody at the end of the queue, they call the head of the company.”  There is some validity in that. As the company operator he would be the appropriate person to approach in order for police to get the roster and to work with him to arrange a time to interview staff and to ensure that the staff are properly supported. As one commentator said:

It’s his responsibility to put together a report and make an official comment based on facts and time lines. Also patient confidentiality is very important too. Media hype and an attention seeking employee making issues out of approved business reporting processes.

I’ve not seen any suggestion that there was any inappropriate care and I do not make that suggestion here nor do I infer it from what has been written, but that does not mean that the staff that were involved are not ‘fragile’ particularly given the media attention (even to the extent it’s being discussed on this blog) and so may need support from their boss prior, during and after speaking to police. Of course he can’t compel police to go through him, the police can ask questions of anyone they want, but as noted above, the person doesn’t have to answer them.

As for protection of the paramedic title, the Health Services Amendment (Paramedics) Act 2015 (NSW) has been passed by the Parliament but has not yet ‘commenced’ so it is not yet part of the effective law. As for the claim that this person who has ‘been a paramedic since 1988’ will ‘under the new legislation… face having to stop immediately and going back to school for between two and four years to gain a qualification for skills I am already able to perform,” that may not be correct. A paramedic will include a person ‘who has received training, or who has experience, prescribed by the regulations’ or ‘who is authorised by the Health Secretary to hold himself or herself out to be a paramedic’.   We don’t yet have the regulations (which may explain why the Act is not yet in force) to know if he would be included.

There is no doubt that paramedic registration would make it clear when a person has met the requirements, but it won’t solve the need to have a ‘grandfather’ provision to allow practising and experience paramedics to continue to use the title even without the latest university qualifications.

The most important point to remember, even though I’ve reposted this story here, is that this is “based on some sketchy info about an email? Could be out of context, could be real, could be fake? Trial by media is very dodgy?” and we shouldn’t “lose sight of the fact that the media will distort things to make the story attention grabbing!!”