Paramedics’ National Statement on Failures of Leadership; Risk of Burn Out

Australian Paramedics Association

Australia’s Paramedics are on the brink of burn out; exasperated and exhausted from battling a crisis that should have been avoided.

Outbreaks of COVID variants in our communities have highlighted how dangerously under resourced we have let our services become. But response times have been worsening since well before this pandemic, and Paramedics have been doing it brutally tough for years.

While Governments may wish to blame their every failing on ‘unprecedented demand’, the reality is they have neglected to properly invest in emergency healthcare—instead allowing ambulance services to function on the sheer fatigue and goodwill of the workers.

We’ve been calling urgently for more staff to keep up with demand around the country, including an extra 1500 Paramedics in NSW and 220 in Tasmania.

Without proper resourcing, we routinely work through meal breaks and don’t finish on time—it’s not uncommon to work 15 hours with no break. And with COVID-19, we’re doing longer days, under heightened pressure, in full PPE during the summer heat.

Instead of turning their attention to these problems, ambulance leaders fund campaigns begging the public not to call except in genuine emergencies.

We need to stop blaming patients for the failings of our service and instead invest in changes that can offer callers genuine alternatives to ambulance care. Our triaging systems need a drastic overhaul, from secondary triage by experienced clinicians to improved call screening and secondary referral networks.

We must also better support Paramedics to offer in-home care and clinical pathways other than Emergency Departments. The ambulance system has the potential to be a gateway away from, as well as toward, our hospitals—but draws patients who lack access to other services, and pushes Paramedics to fill ED beds with those who could be better treated somewhere else.

Governments need to overhaul these systems so people don’t die, and Paramedics don’t burn out.

Right now, the risk of that happening is high. It’s been a gruelling two years, with fires, floods, and COVID-19, and Paramedics have continued to work through horrendous conditions out of loyalty to the community—in spite of our complete lack of confidence in our employer.

That is not sustainable. If we’re to retain staff we need to give them a professional wage, mental health support, better rostering practices, more competent leadership, guaranteed crib breaks, and a limit to involuntary end of shift overtime. In the long run, keeping experienced Paramedics on the frontline will save money and save lives.

Adam Gett Chris Kastelan Kim Fazackerley

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