Members of the NSW’s largest paramedic union are calling on politicians from all parties to back their local paramedics ahead of the March 2019 state election.
Releasing the Australia Paramedics’ Association Election submission, APA NSW secretary Steve Pearce said paramedics had been treated poorly by the NSW Coalition Government.
Mr Pearce said the government had dismissed the concerns of frontline paramedics and failed to address fatigue issues, failed to improve working conditions, failed to upgrade deficient equipment and failed to address the need for more paramedics now.
“The Berejiklian Government is continually telling the public that NSW has no debt and a massive surplus but NSW Ambulance has insufficient funding to improve the appalling working conditions paramedics endure on the job,” Mr Pearce said.
“Paramedics are expected to work ridiculous hours when their shifts are extended, there are almost never any breaks because of the increasing workload and promised additional staff are four years away.”
In the Murrumbidgee Zone, the Bureau of Health Information’s latest quarterly report showed that the performance trend of ambulance in most categories decreased.
In the third quarter in 2018, ambulance had slightly lower activities when compared with the same quarter in 2017; however, the majority of performance measurements fell.
Measurements include response time, mobilisation time, ambulance arrival time and turnaround time.
The union wants improvements to access to breaks, fatigue management, reduction in extension of shifts, paramedic safety and reduction in violence, more resources and better pay.
The NSW Ambulance Chief Executive Dominic Morgan was unavailable for comments; however, in August Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced that Wagga will receive new recruits, increasing local paramedics from 28 to 40.
“The NSW Government’s budget announcement included a record investment of more than $1 billion into NSW Ambulance for 2018–19,” the spokesperson said.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced earlier this year that Wagga will receive a boost to its paramedic numbers.
Twelve new recruits will be trained and on the road within six months to strengthen frontline services, increasing the ranks of local paramedics from 28 to 40.
Wagga political figures have say
Wagga MP Joe McGirr said the government needed to ensure paramedics had all the resources needed for their jobs.
“If there are simple changes, additions or adaptations that can be made to address basic needs of resourcing, pay, fatigue management, working hours and safety, then I want to make sure they are being addressed,” he said.
“It’s not an outlandish request to be safe at work.
“I have been in touch with paramedics across the electorate and I am hearing horror stories of staff in outlying areas working 23 hours straight some days, because after a normal shift they are required to transport patients to major hospitals, due to doctor’s being unavailable.”
Dr McGirr said that while the additional staff was a positive, “if the government has the surplus it says, then we should be making sure our paramedics have the best working conditions possible now”.
Mackenna Powell, The Nationals’ candidate for Wagga, confirmed that the 12 paramedics for Wagga were undergoing training and are on schedule to be on the ground in March 2019.
“Recently announced safety initiatives include mandatory face-to-face occupational violence-prevention training for paramedics in de-escalating violent situations under a $3.3 million package aimed at improving their job safety,” Ms Powell said.
“Everyday in our community, someone is touched by the work of our local paramedics.
“I will continue to work closely with the Minister for Health and the Deputy Premier to ensure our promises are delivered and that we continue to review and improve the working conditions our paramedics face.”
However, Country Labor’s candidate Dan Hayes said the government showed how little it cared for paramedics when it tried to introduce volunteers instead of paramedics in Coolamon.
“It wasn’t until the community, alongside Labor, highlighted this shameful policy that registered paramedics were employed,” Mr Hayes said.
“It took the Wagga byelection before this government acted in promising new paramedics for Wagga, as they had done nothing in the previous seven years in Government.
“They neglected Wagga before, and they will continue to do it again.”
In the build up to the election, Labor will announce their plans for supporting paramedics.
“We have already announced increasing security guards at hospitals to protect staff and patients,” Mr Hayes said.
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