NSW Paramedics

From Cowra Community News 10/9/2012


Paramedics at Orange and Griffith have expressed disappointment and fury over new rosters prepared by the New South Wales Ambulance Service.Orange paramedic union representatives and the Ambulance Service need to resume talks in an effort to end a stalemate over the lack of numbers for the Orange roster, says Member for Orange, Andrew Gee.Mr Gee, who met Health Services Union paramedic Ian Spurway yesterday (Tuesday) in Orange, says he wants an end to the standoff between the two parties.“I have … contacted NSW Ambulance and they have agreed to resume talks and I would like to see both parties come to the table in good faith,” Mr Gee is quoted.Mr Spurway and a fellow delegate reportedly put their case to Mr Gee yesterday.“I think we managed to get a good hearing from Mr Gee and we (paramedics) are keen to resolve the issues surrounding fatigue of our paramedics and the fact we don’t have enough staff here in Orange,” Mr Spurway is quoted.Mr Spurway says paramedics in Orange are under huge pressure, with an increased workload because of the new hospital, and virtually no growth in staff numbers for 20 years

Meanwhile, paramedics in Griffith are threatening industrial action for the first time in 30 years, saying the new roster could force them to work up to 160 hours a week and put lives in danger.The new system, which will be rolled out by the Ambulance Service of NSW (ASNSW) across the state from Saturday, will see paramedics at regional stations moved to a seven-days-on, two-days-off roster, with eight-hour shifts and a 16-hour on-call component.This will replace the four-days-on, four-days-off roster which is currently in place.

The Ambulance Service claims the regional roster reform will reduce fatigue, improve response time for patients and create less after-hours disturbances for paramedics.But those in the job say that is simply not true.Griffith paramedics, who will not be named for fear of repercussions, say they are being bullied to comply with the new system, which could see them having to begin a new shift on less than four hours’ sleep.They say the seven-day roster was in place about 10 years ago but was scrapped because of fatigue issues, with officers sometimes falling asleep behind the wheel.“Griffith paramedics have grave concerns for the safety of patients, members of the public and themselves,” a paramedic is quoted.“Officers will be on call for 16 hours a day at $1.18 per hour, which means you must have phone on you at all times, can’t play sport, take children to the park, go to movies or go out of town whilst on call.“It’s our families and our lives they are messing with – on call disrupts family life because officers sleep in separate beds so they don’t disturb their partner when the phone rings during the night.”Health Services Union (HSU) acting manager of industrial services, Tom Stevanja, says the new rosters are “dangerous”.He says the reforms were introduced in response to a WorkCover investigation into fatigue management, but have been created as a “knee-jerk reaction” and do not address or counteract fatigue.“These guys don’t shy away from hard work, but this gives them no period to rest and relax,” Mr Stevanja is quoted.“In a standard office job we work 152 hours a month but these guys are expected to be available 160 hours per week.”In a letter to the Emergency Medical Service Protection Association, a WorkCover spokesperson says “at no time has the WorkCover Authority of NSW endorsed or will endorse the changes to workplace rosters that have been presented to the paramedics by the (Ambulance Service)” and feedback from paramedics has been “mostly negative”.Griffith paramedics have hit out at NSW Health Minster, Jillian Skinner, for supporting changes that she “does not understand”.But in a written statement to regional media, Ms Skinner accuses the HSU of “misleading and scaring communities”.“What these reforms will deliver are changes to ambulance rosters, which are a long-overdue response to paramedic fatigue and staffing gaps in the afternoon and early evening,” she is quoted.“The changes will mean fewer call-outs, an extra shift in the afternoons for busier stations and shorter day shifts.”


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