NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has labelled a claim that the state government is fast-tracking transfers of paramedics from Central West to Wagga in a bid to win back the seat as “absolute rubbish”.
In a statement on Wednesday, APA NSW said it was concerned about the transfers, which they say are being processed in only 14 days rather than the usual 6 to 12 weeks, “because they [state government] want to win back a parliamentary seat lost in a byelection”.
“We are concerned about the impact of NSW Ambulance rushing these transfers to suit the political objectives of the Berejiklian government,” APA NSW secretary Steve Pearce said.
“We have no doubt that this blatant political act by the Berejiklian government will put lives at risk.
“We put the government on notice that we won’t be silent if this decision leads to an adverse impact on a patient in one of the affected towns.”
The APA NSW statement said seven paramedics were being transferred next week to Wagga from stations at Ardlethan, Narrandera, Junee, Gilgandra, Temora and Haberfield.
APA Central West representative Scott Beaton said NSW Ambulance had fast-tracked transfers to “curry favour with voters in Wagga”.
“Every station that is losing a paramedic to Wagga will be left short staffed,” he said.
However, Mr Hazzard said the claim was simply untrue.
“The APA executive got caught just a few months ago making allegations about an alleged assault on paramedics, which turned out to be completely untrue – and so is this,” Mr Hazzard said.
“The executive of the APA owe their members and the community the truth.
“Notably, no similar allegations have been made by the bigger union the HSU [Health Services Union], which also represents the bulk of paramedics.”
In August 2018, the coalition government announced 12 new paramedics for Wagga as part of its $1 billion investment into NSW Ambulance for 2018–19.
The recruits, boosting the number to 40 in Wagga, would start within six months of the announcement to address fatigue, ambulance response times and other human-resource issues that APA NSW has been critical about.
A NSW Ambulance spokesperson also dismissed APA NSW’s claim, saying that the 12 positions announced for Wagga were filled by paramedics from across the state rather than from only Central West.
"These paramedics are due to commence duties later this month and will be permanently based in the area," the spokesperson said.
"NSW Ambulance paramedics are regularly offered the opportunity to apply and transfer to areas of their choice across the state in accordance with the internal transfer policy.
"As per the policy, the positions in which paramedics have transferred from will then also be recruited to."
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