Members of the State’s largest paramedic union are calling on politicians from all parties to back their local paramedics ahead of the 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 which had dismissed the concerns of front line 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 700 paramedics trumpeted by the NSW Government are four years down the track and paramedic work related injury is skyrocketing 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.”
“We will be encouraging paramedics around the State to tell voters how badly the Berejiklian Government has treated them and consequently allowed service delivery by NSW Ambulance to deteriorate.”
Paramedics want the NSW Government to guarantee:
Better access to breaks;
Better fatigue management;
Reduction in extension of shifts;
Improved paramedic safety and a reduction in violence;
Mr Pearce said paramedics were being treated like battery hens, forced to keep working regardless of how tired they were at the conclusion of shifts in which the workload had become relentless.
“Paramedics are being told to continue working when they are suffering from acute fatigue. If they refuse, they are threatened with disciplinary action. Those who tell managers they are too tired to continue after 12, or even 14 hours or more on the job are subjected to outrageous bullying by NSW Ambulance.”
“We are concerned at the number of reports of paramedics so tired they worry about falling asleep behind the wheel of their ambulance or while driving home,” he said.
He said part of the problem was at the end of 12 hour shifts, paramedics due to finish work were being used to “mop up” non-emergency work because of staff shortages.
“Paramedics want to be safe at work and currently have no training or equipment to protect themselves if they are caught in a rapidly deteriorating environment.,” Mr Pearce said.
“The amount of violence paramedics face is increasing, particularly with the numbers of drug affected and mentally disturbed patients.”
“We expect the NSW Ambulance service to do more than tell paramedics to ‘run away’ if they feel threatened or ‘stand-off’ if it sounds dangerous.”
“And there are never enough police available to keep paramedics safe while they treat patients in sometimes volatile situations.”
Mr Pearce said the APA had been in negotiation with NSW Ambulance for three years over uniforms and paramedics were still overheating in summer and freezing in winter.
“We want uniforms that are capable of allowing paramedics to work comfortably all year round,” he said.
“Telling paramedics they cannot have access to the warmest uniforms because ‘it’s not cold enough in your area,’ is not an adequate response by NSW Ambulance and the Berejiklian Government.”
NSW AMBULANCE PROTOCOL AND PHARMACOLOGY GUIDE.
The APA (NSW) has placed bans on the use of this latest guide until NSW Ambulance can adequately train paramedics in its use.
“NSW Ambulance issued a guide during the year which was littered with errors, some of which were potentially life-threatening for patients,” he said.
“Copies of that 500-page guide were quickly withdrawn but we now have NSW Ambulance expecting paramedics to read the revised guide which is in short supply, and implement its protocols without any training which is clearly another short-sighted cost cutting measure which puts the public at risk,” he said.
Mr Pearce said the NSW Ambulance culture of bullying and harassment has led to APA (NSW) taking the lead on paramedic safety and that paramedics had completely lost confidence in the organisation’s senior managers to adequately address the problems paramedics face every day trying to assist patients.