Riverina paramedic feels hung out to dry

Price of truth: Riverina paramedic John Larter could be facing his third misconduct letter, after speaking against Ambulance NSW about safety concerns, affecting rural and regional communities.
Price of truth: Riverina paramedic John Larter could be facing his third misconduct letter, after speaking against Ambulance NSW about safety concerns, affecting rural and regional communities.

Whistleblower paramedic John Larter has accused Ambulance NSW of “sticking its head in the sand”. 

The former Tumut mayor said he was expecting his third disciplinary letter from the service, after he exposed a change to paramedic’s shifts, that he said put regional and rural lives at risk. 

“If someone is bringing up serious issues, you’d think they would … say let’s fix this,” Mr Larter said. 

“But instead they are just hitting you with a stick in the hopes you’ll stop.”

Mr Larter may face a third allegation of misconduct after he allegedly breached the media policy of Ambulance NSW, speaking against the service about staffing problems in rural areas.

With only two paramedics online at some stations, a transfer case can send teams away for hours.

To combat this, Mr Larter said there used to be an on-call list activated, if a job was life-threatening.

“In June they disbanded that,” Mr Larter said.

“So now we’re going to keep seeing scenarios (where help is more than thirty-minutes away).” 

Mr Larter said lives had already been put at risk because of the increased wait-times. 

He said recently, an paramedics responded from Wagga to a home-invasion assault in Tumut. 

The Sunday before, he said someone was trapped in a car unconscious and Ambulance NSW sent help from Gundagai, half an hour away.

When paramedics arrived they found firefighters performing CPR on the diabetic causality, who still had a pulse. 

“The weekend before that, there was someone trapped in a mill at Tumbarumba,” he said.

“Wagga and Gundagai were the closest.” 

Mr Larter said a woman in Batlow died, after paramedics were sent through from Tumbarumba when Tumut officers were closer. 

”It’s not like I’m some nutbag on a collision course to skittle management,” he said. 

“There’s no lies in what I’m telling.”

Yet, Mr Larter said he felt like he was “being hit with a stick” for bringing up safety issues and genuine concerns. 

Both disciplinary letters were sent to Mr Larter from the third highest service officer and hand-delivered in an official capacity, on an almost five-hour return trip.

See also: Whistleblower paramedic’s career in jeopardy

“How am I meant to deal with that? On all levels it’s very intimidating,” Mr Larter said. “Imagine my level of anxiety.”

Mr Larter was firstly reprimanded for defending a member of his community, while he was working in his capacity as mayor.

The second letter was in relation to staffing concerns at Coolamon station.

See also:Station concern: Drive by danger

“No one ever once sat down with me or talked to me about why I had concerns,” Mr Larter said.

“You can’t have a system where people are hit with a big stick when they speak up about a safety issue.” 

The Australian paramedic's union zone liaison Darren Rudd said Mr Larter revealed nothing the union wasn’t aware of. 

He said the service used its media policy to gag paramedics.

In a statement, Ambulance NSW said there were “appropriate mechanisms in place for staff for appeal” its “long-standing” policies and procedures.