Union concerned for Paramedic welfare amidst record demand
As NSW Ambulance (NSWA) report record-breaking demand for emergency responders, Australian Paramedics Association (NSW)—the Union representing Paramedics—are concerned that chronic understaffing will leave responders overworked and dangerously fatigued.
Chris Kastelan, a working Paramedic and President of APA (NSW), has called on NSWA to update baseline staffing levels as a matter of urgency to meet surging demand.
“What we saw over the weekend, with Ambulance reporting their third busiest day on record, is an expression of what our Union has been saying now for years: demand in NSW has been escalating rapidly, and staffing numbers haven’t risen to reflect that.
“Understaffing puts patients and frontline staff at risk, as Paramedics are routinely asked to work through crib breaks and rack up extra overtime at the end of 12-hour shifts.”
30-minute crib breaks are a vital fatigue management tool for on-road first responders, offering what is often the only chance within a Paramedic’s lengthy shift for necessities like meals, rest, and bathroom breaks. The Union reports rising instances of these breaks being interrupted or missed completely due to backlogs of Triple Zero calls requiring a response.
“We’ve heard reports of workers missing cribs from all around the state, which is really worrying because demand shouldn’t be peaking at the moment—typically, numbers spike on holidays or long weekends and through the winter months, when more people fall ill.”
“If workers are already being asked to forego breaks, it’s a bad sign for what’s to come, especially as NSW Ambulance refuse to commit to raising baseline staffing levels to reflect demand.”
APA (NSW) has repeatedly appealed to NSWA to change their Minimum Operating Levels (MOLs), which Kastelan says are radically outdated and the root cause of statewide understaffing.
“In 2020, Ambulance continue to insist on staffing stations according to baseline numbers set back in 2010—despite rapid growth in population and demand for Paramedic services. It’s obvious more staff are needed, but there’s no appetite within state government to spend the cash to roster them.
“For Ambulance to consciously under-resource stations and then turn around to say ‘too bad, breaks can’t happen due to workload’ is a real slap in the face to our state’s hardworking Paramedics.
“If NSW Ambulance are seriously invested in improving patient outcomes, they need to show it by increasing MOLs to meet demand. Cutting costs on Paramedic staffing doesn’t just affect our workforce, it negatively impacts every NSW resident who relies on—and pays for with their taxes—a robust and fit-for-service emergency response system.”