A paramedic has claimed her dream career was totally destroyed by a bullying campaign that started at Dubbo ambulance station.
Lorraine Gould of Wellington is suing the NSW Ambulance Service for damages over “years of torment” at the hands of fellow officers. Mrs Gould asserts the trouble began in Dubbo when she was a probationary officer.
The Workers’ Compensation Commission has been told bullying settled down for a while but later intensified when Mrs Gould transferred to another station.
Described as totally shattered, Mrs Gould said she was almost driven to suicide.
She believes the ambulance service would be content if she resigned or killed herself.
Her lawyers say there is a worrying culture of widespread bullying within the ambulance service.
In her statement Mrs Gould said a training officer often referred to her as a f..king slut and a blood-sucking parasite.
The bullying got worse when Mrs Gould challenged what she says was rorting of overtime.
“I went into the staff toilet and faeces had been smeared all over the seat,’’ Mrs Gould said in her statement.
“As I was the only female who used the toilet I believed this was done to upset me.”
Mrs Gould received a victory on Thursday afternoon when the ambulance service withdrew its denial of liability.
The service agreed to pay compensation going back to June 2, 2009 when Mrs Gould last worked.
But the legal proceedings are far from over.
“It’s taken two years to get this far,’’ solicitor Ros Everett told the Daily Liberal yesterday.
“Now the case will go back to the Workers’ Compensation Commission but it could be up to a year before we are given a date.
“We will be suing at common law for damages for breach of care because the ambulance service allowed its officers to bully Mrs Gould.”
Ms Everett described the attitude and actions of the ambulance service as extraordinary.
“The service was very aggressive and refused to pay one cent,” she said.
“But things changed at the hearing in Orange on Thursday when 100 friends, family and former patients crowded into the venue to offer Mrs Gould their support.
“The ambulance service didn’t want the people in the room and the whole day was spent in legal argument about that.
“We were prepared to go to the Supreme Court to have the public present and ensure transparency.
“Faced with being exposed and shamed in front of so many people the ambulance admitted liability, which was a huge surprise. Suddenly the legal argument about who could be present in the room disappeared.”
Ms Everett said Mrs Gould stood up to bullies because she didn’t believe some of the practices in the ambulance service were good for patient care.
“Intimidation and harassment worsened after Mrs Gould wrote a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into bullying within the ambulance service prompted by the suicide of Cowra ambulance officer Christine Hodder.
“When fellow workers found out about the submission, keys were thrown at Mrs Gould’s face, she was locked out of the ambulance station and there were stages when absolutely no one would talk to her.”
Ms Everett said Mrs Gould was very popular in the Wellington community and highly regarded by the Aboriginal community who called her Little Sister.
“She received numerous awards and achievements and at one stage was named woman of the year.
“Allegations of improper behaviour were made against Mrs Gould by certain people within the ambulance service.
“She was disciplined but with independent witnesses we proved every single complaint was false. The ambulance service has taken no action against those who fabricated the complaints.”
The Daily Liberal approached the ambulance service for comment. There has been no response.
Mrs Gould has a son completing Year 12 in Dubbo. Another son is serving with the Australian Army in Afghanistan.