Frontline healthcare workers in the highest priority category for Australia’s vaccine roll-out are having their appointments cancelled due to chronic under resourcing at NSW Ambulance, according to the Australian Paramedics Association (NSW).
The union reports that staff across the Greater Sydney area are missing out on scheduled vaccine jabs, as NSW Ambulance cancels their appointments due to heavy workloads.
“We’ve heard reports of area-wide cancellations, where an entire sector’s being told that they have too much work for Paramedics to go to their scheduled appointments.
“It’s disgraceful to see political leaders at the very front of the line for vaccinations, while the healthcare workers who have been on the frontlines throughout this pandemic are made to miss out” said APA (NSW) President Chris Kastelan.
“This is out of step with nationally identified priorities for the vaccine roll-out. It’s also plain insulting to the Paramedics asked to sacrifice their personal safety to make up for their employer’s failings.”
The union says the cancellations, which NSW Ambulance attributes to high workload, are worryingly widespread and should be raising alarm bells about resourcing in the state’s emergency healthcare.
“We’re not talking about extenuating circumstances here. We’re seeing appointments cancelled across Sydney on an absolutely standard weekday, because NSW Ambulance doesn’t have sufficient on-road staff to meet demand.
“From a public health perspective, it’s alarming that NSW’s frontline healthcare workers are being denied access to the COVID-19 vaccination.
“But it’s even more alarming that our ambulance service is so chronically under-resourced that we can’t release Paramedics, even for an hour, to go and get a jab that could save lives.”
APA (NSW) says a major cause of resourcing problems is NSW Ambulance’s ‘Minimum Operating Levels’ (MOLs): baseline staffing targets that determine how many Paramedics a given community receives. State-wide, the levels have barely been increased since 2010—despite a booming population and increased demand for services.
“The worst part is that many Paramedics aren’t surprised by this development. We get told every day that there’s ‘too much’ work—too much for us to eat our meals, too much to take our scheduled breaks, too much for us to finish on time at the end of a gruelling 12-hour night shift.
“‘Too much to get the vaccine’ might be new, but it’s not surprising. NSW is running an ambulance service that can barely cope with current demand, and Paramedics are continuing to pay the price.”
“We’re calling on NSW Ambulance to urgently raise MOLs to ensure communities get better coverage, and Paramedics get the basic workplace rights that they’re entitled to.”