Ambulance Active Autumn 2021

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24 2021


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VOLUME 12 ISSUE 1 2021 Australasian Council of Ambulance Unions Elected Office Holders 2020 PRESIDENT Steve Fraser (HSU NSW) VICE PRESIDENT Sarah Stone (First Union NZ) John Millwood (UWU Qld) SECRETARY Jim Arneman (TWU ACT) ASSISTANT SECRETARY Erina Early (UWU NT) TREASURER Leah Watkins (AEA SA) ASSISTANT TREASURER Simone Haigh (HACSU TAS)

TWU AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY Ben Sweaney E: ben.sweaney@twuact.org.au AMBULANCE DIVISION HSU NSW Stuart Hatter E: stuart.hatter@hsu.asn.au

Ambulance Active Official Publication of Australasian Council of Ambulance Unions

REGULARS 05 From the President 07 From the Secretary 14 Industrial Reports FEATURES 09 South Australia 20 New South Wales 23 New Zealand 24 Northern Territory 27 Queensland 30 Tasmania 33 Victoria 36 Western Australia FIRST UNION – AMBULANCE PROFESSIONALS NZ Sarah Stone E: sarah.stone@firstunion.org.nz UWU NORTHERN TERRITORY Erina Early E: erina.early@unitedworkers.org.au

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Ambos won’t be bullied into silence

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Last day of our Weekend of Action

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UWU QLD Debbie Gillott E: debbie.gillott@unitedworkers.org.au

HACSU TASMANIA Chris Kennedy E: chris.kennedy@hacsu.org.au

AEA SOUTH AUSTRALIA Leah Watkins E: leah.watkins@aeasa.com.au

UWU AEA VICTORIA Brett Adie E: brett.adie@unitedworkers.org.au

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UWU WA June Congdon E: june.congdon@unitedworkers.org.au

Disclaimer: Countrywide Austral (“Publisher”) advises that the contents of this publication are at the sole discretion of the Australasian Council of Ambulance Unions and the publication is offered for background information purposes only. The publication has been formulated in good faith and the Publisher believes its contents to be accurate, however, the contents do not amount to a recommendation (either expressly or by implication) and should not be relied upon in lieu of specific professional advice. The Publisher disclaims all responsibility for any loss or damage which may be incurred by any reader relying upon the information contained in the publication whether that loss or damage is caused by any fault or negligence on the part of the publisher, its directors and employees. Copyright: All advertisements appearing in this publication are subject to copyright and may not be reproduced except with the consent of the owner of the copyright. Advertising: Advertisements in this journal are solicited from organisations and businesses on the understanding that no special considerations other than those normally accepted in respect of commercial dealings, will be given to any advertiser.


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REPORTS

the PRESIDENT COVID, PANDEMIC, VACCINATION, PPE. These are all terms that have come to the forefront of any conversation over the last year. We must consider ourselves lucky on the international scale for the way COVID-19 has affected our lives as a community. We must also pause to reflect on the devastating effect it has had on our colleagues and other communities around the world. However, we have not escaped the pandemic without significant effect. In particular for those of us on the ‘frontline‘ who have worked harder and under greater stresses than many could even imagine. Relatively simple treatment tasks become cumbersome and difficult under the sometimes suffocating blanket of PPE. Procedural changes have been adapted and some very difficult decision making has had to be employed. Our responsibilities to our patients have remained the same but the tasks and processes of providing care and fulfilling those responsibilities has grown incredibly difficult. As vaccinations continue to rollout, albeit slower than we would like, our life both at work and at home is creeping back to a semblance of normality. The Aus/NZ travel bubble is developing and our economies are tracking better than the ‘experts’ predicted. The better than expected economic recovery has not transferred into better wages for workers. We have remained stoic during the pandemic and simply got on with the job. We have held the line and served our communities with integrity and no small effort. The time has come for employers, both government and private, to recognise

that effort and sacrifice and offer a fair reward to the not only paramedics but all workers who have kept our society functioning during one of the most difficult times in the past century. Instead of freezing wages and propping up the big end of town, it is time to pay workers what we are really worth. It is time to recognise our efforts and reward us with a fair wage. This will remove the financial stress that we and our families face every day. It will give us the fiscal freedom to use that money to promote the economy through spending and consumer activity. Workers, particularly health care workers have remained quiet about unfair wages policy and stagnant wages growth, as we simply got on with the job of beating this dreadful disease. We are starting on the winning side of that battle and now

it is time to speak out and rightly ask for what we deserve. We have been the silent heroes of this fight. We now deserve to speak out and be rewarded with a fair wage for the incredible work we do. Workers’ wages are festering, as CEOs continue to amass their bonuses. The economic recovery will only be enhanced by shared wealth and increased household spending. It is time to be recognised with more than shallow words of thanks and symbolic caps and badges. It is time for a fair wage that recognises us as the professionals we are. In Solidarity

Steve Fraser

B. HSc. (PreHosp. Care) ACAU President

About Steven: Steven is an operational paramedic in Northern New South Wales. He has been a paramedic since 1981 with the Ambulance Service of New South Wales. He qualified as an Intensive Care Paramedic in 1985 and has worked extensively in both metropolitan and rural settings across New South Wales. Steve was a member of the New South Wales Special Casualty Access Team and operated as a flight paramedic with the CareFlight helicopter out of Westmead Hospital. He spent time as an educator for New South Wales Ambulance before moving to rural New South Wales. Steve is also the Vice President of the Health Services Union NSW Branch.

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REPORTS

the SECRETARY PARAMEDIC MENTAL HEALTH I recently listened to an ABC Earshot Podcast titled ‘Broken by Battle’. https:// www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ earshot/broken-by-battle/13291740 The podcast deals with the experiences of three Australian soldiers who are veterans of the Iraq and Afghan conflicts and their ongoing struggles with psychological injuries arising from their service. As I listened to their recounting of their struggles with hyper anxiety, hyper vigilance and other debilitating conditions, I was taken back to much of the confronting testimony I read and heard as part of submissions made by paramedics and other first responders to the Australian Senate’s inquiry into the mental health and wellbeing of first responders in 2018 and 2019. Up front, I acknowledge that the lived experience of armed services members in this space is unique. But it is inescapable that the effects of the operating environment on emergency services members, including paramedics, is resulting in many of the same debilitating symptoms and sometimes tragic consequences of suicide as is occurring in our veterans’ communities. The evidence is there and plain to see in the often-harrowing personal accounts of the effects of their service on countless first responders and emergency services workers who either wrote submissions to or spoke in person at the Senate Inquiry. It was acknowledged and supported in the findings of the committee as published in their final report: https://www.aph.gov. au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/ Senate/Education_and_Employment/ Mentalhealth/Report

The longer we work in paramedicine, the more potential there is for psychological injury. However, that does not mean that these injuries will routinely or actually occur or be correlated to years of service. ‘Post Traumatic Growth’ is a concept that argues that with good support and supervisory practices, traumatic and other potentially psychologically damaging incidents can lead to increased resilience and professional growth. However, this is reliant on a range of support services being routinely available and offered when potentially damaging incidents occur. Evidence supports that a well designed and resourced Peer Support Program is one such service that can and does make a difference in this space. It took 12 months for the Morrison Government to release its official response to the recommendations of the Senate Committee. The recommendations can be viewed here https://www.aph.gov.au/ Parliamentary_Business/Committees/ Senate/Education_and_Employment/ Mentalhealth/Report/section?id=commit tees%2Freportsen%2F024252%2F26970. The Morrison Government only endorsed a handful of these recommendations for action. At the time of writing, no action has occurred even on these limited recommendations. This is a national disgrace. The time has come for the federal government to show leadership on these important issues and coordinate a national response that coordinates state efforts to address the most important of these recommendations as a matter of urgency. The ACAU will be coordinating campaigning in the coming months to highlight this important issue.

THE PANDEMIC As I pen this article paramedics across Australia and NZ are beginning to receive their COVID19 vaccinations. We can only hope that this marks the beginning of the end of the pandemic as immunity levels rise and infections decline. Sporadic outbreaks in quarantine continue to remind us that we need to be vigilant and thorough when it comes to continuing to implement infection control measures such as hand washing and social distancing.

THANK YOU I want to again pay tribute to paramedics in Australia and New Zealand who’ve responded so professionally to the pandemic and the additional pressures it has place on our clinical practices. I’d also like to pay tribute to all the union officials and delegates in the ambulance space who are continuing to fight for members rights and entitlements during the pandemic. As always, less scrupulous ambulance employers are taking the opportunity afforded by the pandemic to subvert normal consultative processes and cut corners when it comes to work health and safety and other provisions in the name of expediency. A pandemic is no excuse to ignore rights and conditions, many of them hard won and designed to protect health and safety of our members so that they can look after the health and safety of the public. Keep safe and continue to provide the excellence in care for which paramedics and ambulance employees generally are renowned.

Jim Arneman ACAU Secretary

About Jim: Jim is a Registered Intensive Care Paramedic who works for the ACT Ambulance Service. He was the inaugural Secretary of the National Council of Ambulance Unions, a position he held for three years, before taking on Project Officer roles for NCAU covering National Registration and Paramedic Mental Health. He has worked as a paramedic for over three decades in metropolitan, rural, regional and remote settings in several ambulance services. He is currently the Secretary of the ACT TWU Ambulance Delegates Caucus and was elected unopposed as the inaugural Secretary of the Australasian Council of Ambulance Unions in 2019.

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SOUTH AUSTRALIA

AMBOS WON’T BE BULLIED INTO SILENCE Treasurer Rob Lucas is fond of using the slogan “ambulance union bosses”. But it needs to be made clear that those “bosses” he refers to are the whole membership of the union. The union is democratic, possibly an unfamiliar concept for him. DURING THE PAST WEEKS, THE PUBLIC has been hearing from union bosses, rankand-file ambos, paramedics, ambulance officers and communications officers expressing alarm at the treatment they, and consequently all South Australians, are receiving at the hands of the State Government. They will not be silenced despite attempts to bully them into not speaking out. Every day, South Aussies’ lives and health are at risk because of the government’s strategy of neglect of the ambulance service. Treasury now seems to be running the SA Ambulance Service by controlling funding. Health Minister Stephen Wade has abandoned your ambos, leaving them with no choice but to campaign for safety and fairness. Meanwhile, Premier Steven Marshall sits back and lets it happen, with tragic results for those who did not get an ambulance in time because there were none available. This high-risk ambulance shortage is a daily occurrence and has had fatal consequences. Mr Lucas falsely claims ambos’ conditions are the nub of the problem. His attack on where ambos take their meals shows a deep lack of understanding of the importance of being able to return to home station for ambos’ wellbeing. And to ensure that the good citizens in the station’s catchment area have an ambulance nearby in their time of need. The Treasurer’s complaints about the need for “roster reform” is nothing but a smoke screen; the Ambulance Employees Association agreed to that process long ago. Cabinet has been sitting on a funding submission since early 2019 – held up because Mr Lucas wants to attack conditions unrelated to response times, but important for ambo wellbeing. His attacks are ideological, not evidence-based. While there is room for some additional roster models, it can only be done if more staff are funded. AMBULANCE ACTIVE

SA is the only state in Australia that has cut ambulance funding. Our members have instructed their union to defend their conditions, and to campaign for the government to provide a safe ambulance service. To achieve this, we need the public’s support: SAAS staff put themselves in harm’s way to support you. Now they need your support so that we can all be safe. In September 2018 the AEA provided a comprehensive list of 14 or so constructive suggestions to Mr Wade to help stop ramping. The minister has ignored all of them, preferring instead to listen only to health bureaucrats despite promising to listen to actual on-the-ground clinicians. As all who work in health know, there is often a huge gap between desk jockeys’ theories and practical experience on the frontline. Our suggestions included transit wards in hospitals for admissions and discharges, making the queuing an in-hospital issue

and freeing up ambulances to look after the community. This would improve patient flow and reduce ramping. Many hospitals in other states already have these wards. The Treasurer’s claim that having more ambulances would just create more ramping is ludicrous. More ambulance crews would mean more patients would get attention within a safe time frame. To suggest otherwise is naïve or just spin. None of our constructive suggestions have been heeded or acted upon, and meetings with senior government members have ceased altogether. If Messrs Wade, Lucas and Marshall put as much effort into making SAAS safe as they do into avoiding it, South Australians would be much safer and we would all be better off.

By Phil Palmer

Ambulance Employees Australia State Secretary

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SOUTH AUSTRALIA

‘IMPLIED’ ICAC THREAT AS PARAMEDICS SPEAK OUT OVER HOSPITAL RAMPING The state’s ambulance boss today warned paramedics they could face trouble with ICAC if they speak publicly about long enforced waits outside full public hospitals, prompting accusations that the government is trying to “gag” comment about an ongoing health issue. THE SA AMBULANCE EMPLOYEES Association and members went on a media blitz on Tuesday after all metropolitan hospitals went “code white” on Monday night, with 88 patients waiting for a bed and 15 ambulances ramped at the Royal Adelaide Hospital at around 8pm. One member, paramedic Josh Cox, told reporters he worked a 12-hour shift with no break on Monday, with one case ramped for four hours while there were “uncovered lights and sirens jobs that we just did not have the resources to send”. SA Ambulance Service Chief Executive David Place sent a letter to paramedics on Tuesday, warning employees they “may commit misconduct” if they speak out in violation of the public service code of ethics. Place this morning rejected suggestions he was threatening paramedics, but then went on to say ICAC may become involved if the public sector workers speak out. “I’m just trying to put out a call to them to say be careful, because when you breach that code of conduct, there may be implications of that,” Place told ABC radio this morning. “Not that we’re intending to do that, I fully support our people being able to say what they need to say as a member of the public, but what we find sometimes in a heated situation like we’ve got at the moment, some people say things with incorrect information. “My fear is that they will, firstly, maybe scare the public into not ringing for an ambulance believing that it won’t attend. “The second issue is the ICAC commissioner has made it pretty clear that public sector employees need to adhere to that code so once they breach that code, I can’t necessarily protect them.” Place added that he has not spoken to any individual paramedics about their

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decision to speak out, and whether he would depended on “how outrageous the claim”. SA Ambulance Employees Association industrial officer Rob Leaney said Place’s comments about ICAC carried an “implied threat”. “Obviously it’s trying to silence other members from standing up, and voicing their concerns,” Leaney told InDaily. “He’s portrayed it as just advice and just a reminder, but there’s an implied threat in there which we’re not happy with at all.” Asked whether the latest threat would dissuade members from speaking out, Leaney said: “I suspect it may with some … a threat from the chief executive they won’t take lightly.” “But what we’re hearing is it’s buoying others up that wouldn’t have come forward

now to come out and speak,” he said. “So we’ve pretty much got a queue of members that are now actively saying … we’re prepared to speak up on radio and television because something needs to stop and something needs to change here.” Leaney also rejected the ambulance boss’s concern that paramedics making public comments about ambulance call outs could pose a risk to patient confidentiality. “They would never breach patient confidentiality, they’re health professionals, they would never do that,” Leaney said. “Patient-first is their mantra, and they see that this (speaking out) is putting the patient first. “It’s a very unusual circumstance, I don’t think I’ve seen this in thirty years where AMBULANCE ACTIVE


SOUTH AUSTRALIA

our members have been so compelled to stand up and say these things.” Opposition Health Spokesperson Chris Picton echoed the union’s criticism, and called on Place to retract both his email on Tuesday and his comments on radio today. “This is a startling escalation, and this is a sign that the government is at war with their own staff,” Picton told reporters this morning. “The threats that were made on radio this morning need to be retracted, and the government should listen to these paramedics and invest the resources needed.” Health Minister Stephen Wade said he would be meeting with Place on Friday to discuss the issue, and reiterated his opposition to gagging health workers. “I’ve consistently made it clear to health leadership that I do not believe it’s acceptable that health officials be gagged,” Wade told reporters today. “I’m sure that CEO Place is aware of that.” The minister clarified that he wants patient confidently to be respected, but would not support gagging employees for discussing the provision of healthcare.

“There are certainly constraints on health professional in terms of the revealing of patient details, so certainly I don’t think it’s inappropriate for Mr Place to remind people of their public sector ethics,” he said “But we are in a free society, and as health minister, I respect my health professionals being part of a conversation about how to improve services.” The increased attention towards ramping this week comes amidst a nearly four-year industrial dispute between the government and the ambulance union. Place revealed on ABC radio this morning the workload of paramedics has been growing on average by 4.5 per cent each year, but resource funding for the agency – tied to the consumer price index – has only grown from 2 – 2.5 per cent annually. “I actually do believe that we need more resources but the resources we need to be more effective,” Place said. “We’ve got a 1990s ambulance service model trying to solve a 2020 problem. “The union believes it’s very simplistic it’s just about resourcing, we believe it’s much more complex than that.”

Premier Steven Marshall told reporters on Tuesday that the government takes ramping “very seriously”, and said they were looking at a range of solutions – from ambulance resourcing to hospital patient flow – to solve the problem. “The ramping is unacceptable, it’s not something that we are sitting on our hands about,” Marshall said. “But there’s no simple solution to the situation that we inherited from the previous government.” He added that ongoing upgrades to the Flinders Medical Centre had temporarily reduced the facility’s emergency department capacity. “One of the things that is compounding the problem at the moment … is that there has been a slight contraction at the ED capacity at the Flinders Medical Centre which is putting some pressure on the overall system at the moment. “But we are working to get that stood up as quickly as possible.” The premier also pointed to the more than 180 paramedics his government has hired, and the upgrades completed on 46 ambulances across the state’s health network during his time in office.

SA AMBOS, FIRIES RALLY FOR MORE RESOURCES Hundreds of ambulance officers and firefighters have rallied in Adelaide calling for more funding, warning lives are at risk without extra resources. BOTH GROUPS HAVE BEEN engaged in prolonged disputes with the government over staff and equipment levels. The rally gathered in Victoria Square on Thursday before marching to parliament house with United Firefighters Union state secretary Max Adlam telling the gathering the situation was dire with fire trucks continually breaking down, few spare parts and a “skeletonised” engineering division. She said their calls were not about increased pay but for the safety of the public and the welfare of emergency service workers. “It’s about the frustration and despair our members are feeling as they try to access the things they need to do their jobs,” Ms Adlam said. “Our people do long hours, they do shift work continually, they study, they train hard and they’re dedicated.

AMBULANCE ACTIVE

“Despite all the challenges they love their jobs. Ambulance Employees’ Association secretary Phil Palmer told the rally the state government was playing a “dangerous game of Russian roulette” with public safety in its refusal to provide adequate resources. Mr Palmer said the association had been warning the government for years that a crisis situation was emerging. He recently told a parliamentary committee that a royal commission into the funding, staffing and operation of the ambulance service was needed. He said some calls for ambulances were being left unattended putting lives at risk, crews were being forced to ramp outside hospital emergency departments and low-priority patients made to wait more than 12 hours in the face of everincreasing demand.

“There is not a corner of the ambulance service that is not under pressure,” Mr Palmer told the committee last month. “It is the worst it’s ever been. I’ve been doing this job 34 years and have never seen it this bad.” The state government said it was committed to properly resourced emergency services. It recently offered to employ an extra 50 ambulance officers on top of what it said were hundreds recruited since the last state election. But it said it also needed reforms, including revisions to outdated rostering arrangements.

Tim Dornin

Australian Associated Press

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SOUTH AUSTRALIA

The Ambulance Employees Association is concerned about ongoing ramping at SA hospitals.(Facebook: Ambulance Employees Association)

UNION LAUNCHES INDUSTRIAL ACTION WITH PATIENTS NOT TO BE CHARGED IF THEIR AMBULANCE IS LATE Ambulance officers in South Australia have launched industrial action over a resourcing brawl with the state government. UNION MEMBERS HAVE AGREED TO stop charging patients for certain ambulance trips, starting this afternoon. The secretary of the Ambulance Employees Association, Phil Palmer, said he believed the action could cost the state government “thousands” of dollars within the first 24 hours alone. He said patients not seen by an ambulance within medically appropriate timeframes will not be charged. “If [a patient] gets a priority one in longer than eight minutes, they won’t get a bill,” he said. “If they get a priority two in longer than 16 minutes, they won’t get a bill …. [and] if someone gets a priority three in longer than 30 minutes, they won’t get a bill, and so on. “We’ll be escalating [the action] over time if we don’t get the outcome we want. “We don’t bargain — we’re fighting for the community’s safety.”

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The row bubbled over a week ago, when the Ambulance Employees Association gave the state government a deadline to meet in order to avoid industrial action. The union is demanding more resources for the state’s ambulance service to help relieve over-worked staff and improve chronic ramping outside public hospital emergency departments. “Again, last night, lives were significantly at risk because there weren’t enough ambulances to meet the workload,” Mr Palmer said today.

GOVERNMENT SAYS MORE FUNDING ALONE ISN’T THE ANSWER But the State Government has repeatedly said it does not believe the issues can be resolved through more resources alone. It wants to re-evaluate how shifts are rostered — including using more eighthour shifts, instead of 12-hour shifts —

and wants to revise where paramedics take their breaks. Ambulance officers currently drive to their home station to take breaks, and not the closest SAAS station. Health Minister Stephen Wade said he would not run the health system or ambulance service “on the basis of industrial ultimatums issued by union bosses”. “I’d say to the union: we’ve all got a responsibility to deliver the best possible patient care,” Mr Wade said. “It’s very important that they come to the table to discuss reform. “We need to make sure that the ambulance service is fit for purpose going forward.”

Isabel Dayman

By state political reporter AMBULANCE ACTIVE


SOUTH AUSTRALIA

PATIENTS FORCED TO TAKE TAXIS TO HOSPITAL DURING MEDICAL EMERGENCIES As ramping issues continue throughout Adelaide, the ambulance union says patients have been forced to catch taxis to hospitals. THE AMBULANCE EMPLOYEES Association (AEA) has revealed there were 15 emergency, “potentially lifethreatening” cases waiting for an ambulance at about 6:00pm on Tuesday, with no ambulances available to send. Three cases waited more than 90 minutes for assistance. Audio taken from the metropolitan ambulance dispatch channel at 8:30pm on Tuesday stated several “uncovered” cases — where an ambulance was not on the way — in suburbs including Blackwood, Belair, Seacliff, Norwood, St Marys, Oaklands Park and Morphett Vale. AEA industrial officer Leah Watkins said the audio was only a snippet from the metropolitan south channel, with the metropolitan north channel reporting similar circumstances. “These are emergency cases, that an ambulance would normally respond to [with] lights and sirens, one of the highest priorities of cases — they’re acknowledged as being life-threatening,” Ms Watkins told ABC Radio Adelaide’s Ali Clarke. “These are all of the cases that we did not have an ambulance for at that time. “The metropolitan north channel, at that time, also had priority twos uncovered at Woodville North, Hindmarsh, a vehicle accident in the city, and an overdose at Stepney.” Ms Watkins said ambulances were ramped at hospitals or already at other jobs, while other non-emergency crews were responding to other emergencies. “Patients were finding their own way to hospital — some via taxi,” she said. “We were simply completely inundated and unable to cope.” While the AEA is not aware of how long the patients were left waiting, it said they deserved “better”. A spokesperson for the State Government said it was working on the issues within the system, and patient flow had played a part in the delays. AMBULANCE ACTIVE

AMBULANCE STAFF FEELING ‘DEMORALISED’

having an active heart attack, and every minute they’re not receiving treatment is an increased risk of mortality. “Cyclists — plural — at Blackwood, hit by a car, with no ambulance to send. “It’s a pretty shocking state of affairs.” Ms Watkins criticised the State Government’s handling of continued ambulance issues, reiterating that last night was not just a “surge”. She said response times for the ambulance service have been deteriorating “for years”. “Increasingly, over several months ago, we started hearing priority two cases waiting with no ambulance to be sent,” she said. “The number of cases slowly started to increase from five to seven, up to ten — we hit 10 and we thought that was bad … now 20 (has) been the record. “With no significant increase in extra resources, we are incredibly concerned that number is just going to be left to increase even further.” Staff have reported they feel “demoralised, exhausted, exasperated” and “at the end of their tether”. The AEA also claims “a significant number of those” staff are seeking jobs elsewhere within the ambulance service, because they feel “destroyed by this situation”. Shadow Health Minister Chris Picton said this was “a shocking situation”, and took aim at cuts to the state’s healthcare system. “This keeps getting worse, in terms of the ramping situations and delays to ambulances,” he said. “Just the other day, we saw a report released by the government that at the end of last year, there were two deaths associated with ambulances not being able to get to people on time. “There were 38 cases where there were significant issues or risks of adverse incidents.”

The issue is repeatedly putting lives at risk, Ms Watkins said. “One of them was having chest pains at Seacliff — that could have been someone

ABC Radio Adelaide

“Ambulance ramping is unacceptable, and the government is actively working to address the situation,” the spokesperson said. “Ambulance ramping is a whole-ofsystem issue. “If patients are not flowing through our hospitals, ambulances are less able to transfer patients into Emergency Departments.” The spokesperson said patient flow had impacted response times on Tuesday evening. “Our hospitals had problems with patient flow yesterday and when our ambulance service had a busy night, ramping occurred,” the spokesperson said. “We are rolling out a range of initiatives to ease pressure on our Emergency Departments, such as priority care centres and mental health co-responders and working with our hospitals to improve patient flow.”

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INDUSTRIAL REPORTS

INDUSTRIAL REPORTS ACT The new TWU delegates caucus has been meeting regularly and is tackling a range of issues facing paramedics and ambulance employees in the ACT. This photo of a recent meeting highlights the diversity of our new caucus. The great thing is that this is now ‘business as usual’ for us. A member after the event pointed out that there is 50/50 gender representation in this photo. The contagious enthusiasm the group is bringing to their representation is inspiring activism and increasing confidence amongst the membership that issues are being tackled seriously and thoroughly.

ENTERPRISE AGREEMENT The ACT Ambulance Service Enterprise Agreement 2017-2021 is due for renegotiation and planning is already occurring to ensure important outstanding issues from the last round of bargaining are strategically addressed in the next negotiations. A member’s survey has just been forwarded to all current members seeking their input into our log of claims. Once the Log of Claims is finalised we will begin negotiations in earnest. Pleasingly, the ACTAS Agreement has been flagged as a priority early negotiation by the ACT government. We hope to commence discussions by June 2021. A number of outstanding recommendations of the Blueprint for Change process, including a changed rostering pattern with decreased night shifts; a robust staff development and performance structure, an enhanced front line supervisory and support structure and improved staff wellbeing initiatives are priorities at this stage.

TWU-ACT GOVERNMENT ACCORD The ACT TWU Delegates have endorsed the text of a draft “Accord” which outlines mutual commitments to the important issues still facing the ACTAS in its transition to a modern high performing ambulance service. These include urgently required infrastructure and stations; investment in a fit for purpose management structure; serious resourcing of mental health and wellbeing initiatives; resumption of ICP training and urgent support for the ACTAS Communications Centre. The TWU looks forward to this compact being finalised and guiding the governments prioritisation of issues over our 5-year strategic planning horizon.

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ICP TRAINING It is ironic that an ambulance service that was once solely staffed by ICP’s now finds itself short of Intensive Care Paramedics. The introduction of AP’s (Ambulance Paramedics) occurred with the tiering of the service as a result of the Lennox review in 2011. Since that time only one in house ICP training course has been run, along with progression of some early grad intakes through the Monash Post Grad program. Retirements, attrition and ICP’s moving into management and other roles has now resulted in some shifts only having 2 ICP’s to cover the whole of the ACT. This is clearly unacceptable and needs urgent attention. The TWU is campaigning to establish a new agreed career progression template for AP’s which will see the introduction of a training pipeline so that an agreed and sustained level of ICP capability is maintained across all blocks.

PEER SUPPORT PROGRAM FUNDING One of the most positive achievements of the Blueprint for Change reform process was the establishment of a Peer Support Program in ACTAS. The ACT program was modelled on best practice initiatives interstate but was contextualised to address local requirements. The initial recruitment and selection to these positions was highly successful with a terrific bunch of Peer Support Officers (PSO’s) graduating and undertaking their duties with enthusiasm.

Disappointingly, recurrent funding to care for our carers has not been maintained. As a result, the original 26 PSO’s have dwindled to 13, with these remaining volunteers under increasing pressure to cover notifications and interventions. A recent proposal by the ACTAS Chief Officer to remove/modify the residential component of the recruitment and selection process will undermine the integrity of the PSO program in the opinion of the TWU. The union is fighting this proposal and engaging directly with the ACT Government to ensure that this important component of ACTAS’s psychological and wellbeing program is maintained and expanded when required to meet escalating need. Caucus is debating whether a Provisional Improvement Notice (PIN) ought be sought from Worksafe ACT to address this important issue.

OTHER ISSUES … Along with the foregoing, delegates are concurrently actively engaged in committees which are consulting on a new operational uniform; new ambulance equipment kits; upgrading stations & infrastructure; new 4x4 capability; specialist capability creation and a composite wage for NEPT and Comms members.

Jim Arneman

Secretary, TWU Ambulance Caucus AMBULANCE ACTIVE


INDUSTRIAL REPORTS

NSW FIGHT FOR SECURE JOBS In NSW it’s not enough to be the lowest paid paramedics in the country and critically under-resourced, we are now having to fight for basic job security in Ambulance. At the end of last year, NSWA announced without consultation that they would be recruiting part-time graduate paramedics. These part-time graduates are being hired for “roster flexibility”, meaning that of course these young workers will be exploited to fill holes in rosters. Then, there was a recruitment push to hire paramedics from interstate and overseas on casual contracts. This is an obvious attempt to casualise the workforce instead of rectifying the resourcing issue that leaves us dangerously fatigued and with increasing response times. As a union, ADHSU decided that we had a moral imperative to fight this. We launched industrial action on Christmas Eve which continued and AMBULANCE ACTIVE

escalated through till February. We tried a lot of new collective actions, including delaying pushing off-stretcher after arriving at hospital and bans on late night discharges. Our final effort was a statewide Yellow Vest Day protest action.

We are currently mid-campaign to secure funding for maintenance of all rosters and will continue to fight rearguard action to ensure current and future paramedics have access to full-time employment.

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INDUSTRIAL REPORTS

Queensland RESOURCING, FATIGUE AND THE IMPACTS OF HOSPITAL RAMPING For a significant period, United Workers Union members have been talking to their delegates and officials about the impact the lack of resources and fatiguing nature of the current increase in demand has been having on them and potentially the patients they care for. The escalation of hospital ramping has seen up to 400 hours each day in lost time and an additional 200 hours lost each day due to having crews travel extra distances to get to jobs. Resources are stretched with crews not having meals or breaks, not being able to finish on time, shifts going unfilled resulting in absenteeism at an all-time high. United Workers Ambulance State Council delegates have been working hard behind the scenes documenting the impacts on staff and patients and building a suite of proposals to address these issues. The nature of the different working environments our members undertake in their roles means there is not a one-sizefits-all solution. A discussion statement has been compiled by delegates as a starting point for discussion with decisions makers. It is a lengthy piece of work but is valuable for us to have a multi-facetted proposal to take forward to discussions with decision makers in QAS and Government. The statement from UWU delegates can be viewed at this link. The statement discusses the increase in workload and ramping and the resulting negative impact on ambulance services in the community. It talks about the increase in demand being felt on the lower staffed shifts overnight and the increasing levels of fatigue as a result of operational models not meeting current service delivery expectations. Some of the initiatives identified by United Workers Union delegates to address the current situation centre around better utilisation of PSDU, clinical consult lines, CDS, Transfer Initiative Nurse models, PACH, outreach and referral services and Clinical Hub, along with adequate resourcing across shifts. Recent media attention around the situation faced by members in Ambulance has meant that our member voices are starting to be heard. In early April United Workers Union State Council delegates met with the QAS Commissioner and the QAS Executive team to discuss the ongoing impacts

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being felt by staff because of poor hospital access and strained resources. Delegates from around the state were able to articulate the day-to-day impacts being felt by staff at the hospital ramp. There was also discussion around the impact the resources lost to the excessive wait time at hospital is having on the ability to respond in the community. The fatiguing nature of the type of work being performed, the regular shift extensions and lack of a meal break along with the number of shifts going unfilled were spoken about along with the similarity in shift finish times of all staff and reduced supervision afterhours which results in significant delay in offloading patients at the end of shift. While there was some common ground, there were claims made by QAS around the number of “over establishment” staff being accommodated by the service along with a different perspective around the regularity of unfilled shifts, there is a clear disparity between WPU and operational practices and the expectations of the QAS executive. Along with hospital issues being resolved, whatever resources are required for business-as-usual shifts to be filled, meal breaks to be provided and staff able to finish on time should be funded immediately. UWU delegates suggest if this is the new normal then the service needs to adjust to accommodate.

Further discussions will be held with representatives of Government and UWU delegates. Key issues delegates believe will form the basis of ongoing discussions are: • Access block experienced by the emergency department in admitting patients to wards is unacceptable and results in a delayed ambulance response to the community and increased fatigue for ambulance officers. A system review is required to identify sustainable and cost-effective solutions. In the interim, realise MEDAI recommendations to find short term efficiencies. • The operational workforce of QAS has not grown to match the increase in demand for service and lacks surge capacity for extreme demand, mass casualty incidents, and predictable hospital delays. An increase of 300 operational positions within 6 months will match the increase in demand over the past 6 years, and a commitment to demand-matched staffing increases is required. • Rostering of ambulance resources is complex due to the fragmented nature of the workforce and response locations. Immediate release of frozen funding is required to deliver a robust IT solution to enable best practice workforce utilisation. AMBULANCE ACTIVE


INDUSTRIAL REPORTS

SA The AEA’s ‘safe staffing’ arbitration case in the SAET, as previously reported, has now concluded and is pending a decision of His Honour Judge Dolphin. Since this time conditions in the South Australia Ambulance Service (SAAS) have continued to deteriorate for patients and members alike. Crews are regularly working 12 hours without a single break, some even into several hours of post-shift overtime. For the first time in the history of SAAS, members are reporting that emergency cases (including Priority 1 and 2’s) are waiting long periods before an ambulance is able to be dispatched to the case. With increasing frequency, there are at times numerous Priority 2 cases waiting, sometimes up to 20, with no ambulance to send. Some of these cases have included elderly patients with chest pain and shortness of breath, waiting nearly two hours before an ambulance was able to be dispatched. One case reported to the AEA was a 6-day old baby struggling to breathe, in the heart of the Adelaide CBD. It took 55 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. AEA members report that a number of patients have passed away before an ambulance arrived, were in cardiac arrest on arrival, or passed away shortly after the crew arrived. These events have been incredibly distressing to family, attending crews, and members within the communications room involved in the management of the case including call takers (EMDSO’s), coordinators (EMD’s) and clinicians (ECP’s). A number of these cases are the subject of Coronial Investigation and/or Inquiry. The toll this situation is having on the South Australian community and AEA members is immeasurable. Every time the AEA has spoken publicly in the media in relation to a delayed response, or a cluster of uncovered emergency cases, the Government and SAAS CEO David Place attempt to defend and deflect. Their use of weasel-words like ‘industrial AMBULANCE ACTIVE

spaghetti’ and ‘lumpy rosters’ have enraged the troops. Members became so frustrated by this propaganda that they started speaking to the media, in uniform, about the impact on their patients and themselves. Members were not deterred by the thinly-veiled threat by the SAAS CEO, of discipline under the ‘Code of Conduct’, or referral to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for speaking out. In the wake of this unmitigated disaster the AEA convened a Special General meeting, attended by over 400 members. There was unanimous support for several resolutions involving industrial action and, from the floor, a vote of no confidence in the SAAS CEO David Place. Members voted for industrial action in the form of revenue bans, chalking slogans on ambulances, and speaking publicly in uniform on the disastrous state of the ambulance service and the impact on patients. This collective message by members has resonated with the community and also negatively affected the Government’s polling. With the State Election less than one year away, this is a powerful indicator of the potential for this issue to affect an election outcome. On 1st April the AEA linked arms with the United Fire-fighters Union of SA (UFUSA) in a public protest rally and march to Parliament House to highlight the chronic under-funding of both services. The event was well attended with some 3,000 people there, including an overwhelming presence of Firies and Ambos together with members of the community. It was inspiring to hear the war-cry chanting of ‘What do we do when we’re under attack - Stand Up, Fight Back’ and the passionate speeches from members and union officials. Amongst all of this, the AEA and SAAS were ordered into mediation by His Honour Judge Dolphin. Several mediations have been held; however, progress has been hampered by numerous public pronouncements by the Government throughout this process that more staff will only be forthcoming if

members give up workplace conditions. This has only served to further provoke outrage amongst members and make the mediation process even more difficult. The AEA continues to engage in best endeavours, to achieve a positive outcome for the membership but is prepared to escalate industrial action if mediation proves unsuccessful. Members united, will never be defeated.

Tasmania Our EBA will be up for negotiation early in the new year. We have one remaining pay rise to flow from the last agreement, which will be 2.35 per cent, in December 2021. Tasmania is suffering from the serious effects of ongoing and prolonged ramping. We have a long-term campaign in place for more paramedics. The pandemic significantly affected our campaign strategy in this space. We currently have safety bans in place about pre-handover hospital care occurring to ramped patients, from drugs outside paramedic scope, to taking of bloods, pushing to scans while keeping the patient under paramedic care etc. The Liberal government has called an early election, this will have a significant impact on our ability to secure additional resources. The likelihood is they will be returned, so far, the Liberals have refused to acknowledge Ambulance Tasmania has a resourcing problem, but with response times (for Priority 0 and Priority 1 calls), for the 50-percentile at 32 minutes (ROGS), there is clearly a problem, Ambulance jobs are still increasing by 8 per cent per annum. Secondary Triage has been introduced on card 26 jobs. This is to try and reduce Ambulance responses to low acuity callers, but there remains a problem of lack of alternate pathways to care, especially after normal business hours. We have had some additional staffing ‘added’ to the roster for COVID management. These positions are temporary in nature and at the time of writing,

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INDUSTRIAL REPORTS

it appears that these positions will be abolished sooner rather than later. Some of the positions created did not even get a recruit placed against the position, rather the extra positions were offered on ‘overtime’. The Coroner has recently held an inquest into the death of our Member Damian Crump, this included witnesses from his social/family group as well as a significant number of members and other staff/former staff of Ambulance Tasmania appearing, this clearly was a stressful time from our membership. This death was the catalyst for the “The people behind 000: mental health of our first responders” Senate enquiry as advocated for by the ACAU Assistant Treasurer and HACSU Member Simone Haigh. We hope that the Coroner is quick with her outcomes and positive changes occur. We remain in dispute with the employer removing Travel Allowance payments, and unilateral changes to rosters without proper consultation on the guise of fatigue management; replacing an unacceptable roster with a different unacceptable roster is not a sufficient solution. Like always, we continue to push for improved safety and better contingency plans. Our WC stats remain at high levels with about 1 out of 10 workers in the WC system, some very long term. There remains a high number of members using sick leave to avoid the WC system. The unions key focus remains on safety due to lack of resources, equipment, fatigue management, workload management and roster structures, high levels of overtime and the over-reliance on volunteers to provide clock stopping responses.

Chris Kennedy

Victoria VEOHRC • In October 2020 after denying the culture of bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination, Ambulance Victoria (AV) finally requested an immediate Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC) review into workplace equality and culture. • Since the Review began, hundreds of past and present AV employees have been making submissions regarding their experience in the workplace and how their experiences of bullying, sexual harassment and discrimination have not been addressed even after informing management or the Professional Conduct Unit (PCU). • In early March 2021, VEOHRC released an online survey for both past and present AV employees to provide more information about the AV culture.

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The survey asked about experiences of discrimination and sexual harassment, access to flexible working arrangements, feelings of safety and respect and access to training. 2161 AV employees completed the survey. The survey was voluntary, and the answers will remain strictly confidential. The survey is one of the critical pathways for participating in and shaping the review and it was important that VEOHRC heard from as many AV employees as possible through the survey. • The AEAV is also in the process of preparing its own formal submission to VEOHRC, for more information on this please contact us on 9287 1713 or at aea.vic@unitedworkers.org.au • The AEAV is also advocating for independent oversight of AV’s PCU which has failed to protect members since its inception in 2017. The AEAV is lobbying the government to ensure that whilst we await the outcomes of the VEOHRC review, that members are protected from the PCU failures. AV cannot be allowed to continue to knowingly harm their own staff and we are calling on the Victorian government to step up and take responsibility to protect them.

FTS • In March 2021, Ambulance Victoria proposed a re-design of its Financial Transactional Services (FTS) team which is part of its Corporate Services division. FTS leads AV’s core financial transactional services, including Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivables and PCR/Billing, ensuring AV’s financial transactions are timely and accurately recorded whilst meeting regulatory requirements. • In speaking to the members within this team the AEAV have found a disgruntled workforce who feel they have been ignored for many years. AEAV believes this has resulted in AV taking advantage of them and failing to adequately compensate them for changes to their roles. • The FTS design means that former Billing PCR Officers will become Billing Customer Service Officers and their audit functions will be removed and put into a completely new position, the Billing Assessment Audit Officer. The aim is that all Billing Customer Service Officers will rotate through the Billing Assessment Audit Officer roles. They will rotate for a period of 8 to 12 weeks. AV is refusing to acknowledge that the audit function is by its nature, a higher level of responsibility. • Employees in the FTS are not happy about the changes as it may result in more responsibility with no extra pay, this is despite the fact that many of these employees have been underpaid for years.

• The AEAV has met with FTS employees to discuss their concerns and the plan going forward. The AEAV has also met with AV to outline the concerns of staff. Unsurprisingly, AV is not backing down on their proposed design and the AEAV will continue to support members so that they are acknowledged and remunerated fairly for the work that they do. • If you would like to know more about the FTS design and want to get involved, please contact us on 9287 1713 or at aea.vic@unitedworkers.org.au

KETAMINE • In accordance with clause 6 of the Ambulance Victoria Enterprise Agreement 2020, the AEAV and Ambulance Victoria agreed to establish an Implementation Working Group to consult on a specific set of matters that were discussed during bargaining but did not result in an agreed resolution of the matter. • One of the matters to be discussed is the Ambulance Victoria Alcohol and Other Drug policy and related procedure, including AV’s testing program and industry best-practice, including understanding environmental exposure, in order to identify opportunities for improvements to the current policy framework. • The current Alcohol and Other Drug framework is failing and resulting in innocent paramedics being falsely accused of ingesting drugs such as ketamine when they return positive test results because of occupational exposure. • In 2019 more than 60 paramedics in the Gippsland region of Victoria dealt with this issue and were subject to barbaric hair testing leading to three paramedics receiving First & Final Warnings. • The AEAV will put to AV in the Working Group that it must, among other things: • accept and acknowledge the potential for occupational exposure when paramedics return positive results • adopt the Society of Hair Testing Guidelines for drug testing and drug cut-off levels • any positive results are reviewed by an independent AOD Specialist Medical Review Officer • The AEAV will soon be releasing its formal submissions and recommendations for the AV Working Group to all members. For more information contact us on 9287 1713 or aea.vic@unitedworkers.org.au

Brett Adie

AEA-V Secretary AMBULANCE ACTIVE


INDUSTRIAL REPORTS

WA It has been very busy here in the West, and we have had some notable wins. Not in the least was the sweeping victory of the WA Labor party. We have reduced the number of Liberal seats in the lower house to two, and the Labor Party also now controls the Legislative Council. United Workers Union worked tirelessly on the campaign, and we are all thrilled with the result.

PRESUMPTIVE PTSD FOR WA AMBULANCE WORKERS This is an issue that all States and Territories have been working on, and we are pleased to announce that we received a commitment from the Western Australian Premier, Hon Mark McGowan that: “[The WA Labor Government will] … Introduce a rebuttable presumption that ambulance workers who claim to suffer from PTSD have developed it in the course of their work. The definition of PTSD will be in line with reference to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) and the diagnosis approved by a Psychiatrist”. United Workers Union Ambulance members have fought for a long time to see this come to fruition. We are not resting on our laurels though, there is still work to do to get this over the line. We will keep you posted!

PARAMEDIC IN PARLIAMENT

Here are the results:

TWO CANDIDATE PREFERRED (AFTER FULL DISTRIBUTION OF PREFERENCES) Candidate

Votes

% Votes

MUNDAY – ALP

16,633

63.95%

9,378

36.05%

KIRKUP – LIB

RESULTS BY CANDIDATE Candidate MUNDAY – ALP

Votes Counted

%Valid Votes

15,024

57.74%

8,400

32.28%

KIRKUP - LIB

The election night party was a celebration of a hard-fought victory, deserving of landslide status. United Workers Union Paramedics are thrilled to have Lisa take her seat in Parliament to not only represent the constituents in her electorate, but all Paramedics and Ambulance Officers that work for St John WA.

HANDHELD RADIOS United Workers Paramedic members and Delegates have long been fighting (as a lot of you will be aware) for handheld portable radios for duress. St John have finally agreed to implement these and have set up a working group to progress the matter. UWU Delegates Scott Fitzpatrick and Rachel Lamb are both on the working group, and we will keep you all updated as the process moves forward.

PARAMEDIC BARGAINING

United Workers Union member and Paramedic, Lisa Munday, contested the seat of Dawesville in the recent WA election. The Liberal party elevated her opponent to Leader of the Opposition, which just encouraged Lisa and her team of fellow members and Paramedics to hit the doors even harder. AMBULANCE ACTIVE

Bargaining commenced on Wednesday 17th February. This will be a contentious bargain; St John want to make sweeping changes to how the service is delivered. We are still discussing all claim items, however, below is a snapshot of UWU Paramedic Delegates’ initial concerns in relation to St John’s claims that was put out to members: • The qualified paramedic position as proposed by St John, devalues our profession by renumerating a well-trained, registered professional, significantly less than the current standard. As there is no automatic career progression – this means a qualified paramedic could be static in that position for years making a mere $35.50 per hour. To put that into perspective – if a qualified paramedic works 38hrs a week, Monday to Friday daytime – they would make $70,148 per year. Registered paramedics deserve more than this! • The internship program where St John has proposed a 2-year fixed term contract means that well performing, and well-trained registered paramedics

may not automatically gain employment at the completion of their internship program. This would leave those that do not gain employment – unemployed. We have concerns about the stress this will place on interns – creating an unnecessary and unhealthy culture of competitiveness that may risk overall organisational and workplace culture. St John have indicated that they are able to model organisational requirements in advance and therefore we do not see a benefit in offering 2-year fixed term contracts. • The title of St John’s proposal being the Clinical Appropriation of Care Model, may be attempting to disguise a model that is more about cost savings as opposed to improving the delivery of care to our patients. As we have stated already – there is a proposal to offer a critical care service as part of the model, however this affects a small percentage of patients we see – the model therefore is very unbalanced if it is attempting to improve the delivery of care to the bulk of our patient cohort. We feel based on what has been presented so far, it is more about creating cheaper paramedics – not improving clinical care. There are some other contentious matters that St John have as a part of their claim: • New Clause – Emergency Roster – To support business continuity in the event there is an urgent crisis or situation that impacts the ability to deliver an emergency ambulance service to the community, there is a need to introduce a clause that allows St John to suspend a roster or part thereof. • Remove the default assignment to a 2, 2, 4 rostered (Permanent Shift) under clause 26.4(a), 26.4(b) and 26.4(c) • Include ability to move permanent shifts where operationally required by St John for all classifications by amending clause, which is currently limited to Student Ambulance Officer and Ambulance Officer. • Remove requirement of employee to agree for Manager to work as part of a crew. • No new Allocated Positions will be created. This will require a review of all related clauses in the Agreement. Delegates and members are less than impressed with St John’s claim, particularly when the pay increase they are offering is: 1st Increase: 1.5% 2nd Increase: 1.5% 3rd Increase: 1.5% If you have any questions about any of the matters contained in our Industrial Report, please feel free to contact WA United Workers at ambulancewa@unitedworkers.org.au.

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NEW SOUTH WALES

NSW AMBULANCE CALL TAKER ABUSE: LET’S KEEP THIS ON THE AGENDA! It’s the most important call many people have to make and the Call Takers at NSW Ambulance do an amazing job in providing assistance and keeping people composed amid chaos at the most traumatic time in their lives. YET SOME CALL TAKERS HAVE reported that they can take as many as 6 calls a shift that are abusive or threatening. NSW Ambulance admit that death threats, intimidation and verbal abuse have become the norm and have taken active steps to address support for Call Takers but this issue must remain on the agenda to ensure ongoing support for Call Takers is readily available and more importantly that NSW Ambulance are continuing to discuss this issue with Call Takers and the USU so this issue can be readily monitored and our members are getting the support they need. In accordance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, PCBU’s (Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking) have a duty of care in ensuring that work, health and safety risks are minimised to their workers. A PCBU “must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other person’s is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking” (Work, Health and Safety Act 2011). Verbal Abuse (and the fear of verbal abuse) can lead to distress, anxiety and longer –term ill health. This is a Work, Health and safety Risk that must be minimised! However, there is a lot managers can do!

MINIMISING RISKS • This includes; • Appropriate staffing levels to reduce queuing time • Appropriate software to assist call takers to deal promptly with enquiries • Avoiding unreasonable performance targets • Ensuring that the work environment is safe and healthy, proper lighting and heating, low noise levels, suitable workstations and equipment. • Regular consultation with Call Takers and the USU Representative’s and HSR’s on performance of the Risk Management control measures regarding Call Taking, Health and Safety and Abuse. • Regular Breaks

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Photo source: Central Western Daily

DEALING WITH ABUSIVE CALLS NSW Ambulance Call Takers regularly receive abusive, intimidating and threatening calls. These can include but not limited to; • Prank or nuisance calls • Calls from members of the public who are frightened, in shock or under the influence of illicit drugs or alcohol which can become abusive or threatening. • Threats against NSW Ambulance or NSW Police. • Personal abuse directed to the Call Takers. It is important that NSW Ambulance continually monitor this issue in consultation with Call Takers themselves, HSR’s and USU Representatives (including Union Officials), to ensure Call Takers are prepared for abusive calls and what to do if they experience them. • Is there an escalation for Call Takers if they have to experience an abusive call i.e. to a Manager or Team Leader? • Do Team Leaders provide support to Call Takers when there is an abusive call? • Are there enough Peer Support Officers on each shift? • How often is Peer Support Training conducted to ensure enough support for each shift?

• Is there immediate access to EAP or Chaplin’s to support Call Takers when required? • Are there policies made readily available to Call Takers regarding security information, work, health and safety procedures, provisions for employee support systems for e.g. complaint procedures, counselling and advice? • Are all Call Takers trained on procedures for managing abusive or threatening calls? • Are Call Takers given sufficient time away from their workstations to take a break after experiencing an abusive or threatening call? NSW Ambulance have addressed support for Call Takers but more than ever Call Takers and the USU need to keep this on the agenda. This issue must be constantly monitored to ensure that NSW Ambulance are continuing to do all it can to minimise the risk to health and safety of our members and keep them safe and comfortable while they continue to do the amazing job they do. Let’s work together to keep this on the agenda! AMBULANCE ACTIVE


NEW SOUTH WALES

LAST DAY OF OUR WEEKEND OF ACTION WE ARE WORKING 14+ HOUR SHIFTS without breaks and our response times are getting worse because we don’t have the resources to keep ourselves or our patients safe. The Treasurer and the Government could fix this by funding the maintenance of our rosters and the full-time employment of new paramedics but they have chosen to ignore us and undervalue us. Why are they refusing to spend money on a properly resourced ambulance service for the community? This weekend of action is just the beginning, and ADHSU members will keep fighting and taking action until we are valued in the way NSW deserves.

CAMPAIGN TO INCREASE ICPS IN THE BUSH AND WESTERN/SOUTH WESTERN SYDNEY IN BETWEEN THE BUSHFIRES, the pandemic and everything else that occurred during 2020, many dedicated ADHSU delegates continued to make the case for increasing the amount of paramedic specialists available to the community across the state. This work started back in 2019 when ADHSU members were surveyed asking their views on the current state of paramedic specialisation. Only 22% of respondents believed there were enough paramedic specialists serving patients in their local community. 97% said specialists should be posted in rural

AMBULANCE ACTIVE

and regional locations. 82% said the Government should allow any capable paramedic who puts their hand up to become an ICP and/or ECP to be given that opportunity. ADHSU delegates have been contacting and meeting with local MPs about this issue since the initial survey. Early last year the Health Minister invited ADHSU and the MoH (who opposes the increases we ask for) to provide a submission for his consideration. We received a response from the Minister and have been invited to

a meeting to discuss next steps with the Service. There is a chance we’ll win everything we asked for in the submission. However, there’s also a good chance we won’t. ADHSU delegates will consider the offer from the Minister, and if it’s anything less than what was asked for in the 2019 survey we will come back to members to ask what action they want to take to fight for the rest of our demands.

Gerard Hayes

Secretary, HSU NSW/ACT/ QLD

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NEW ZEALAND

CHARITY BROADBAND YELLOHALO DONATES PROFITS TO AMBULANCE WORKERS After Hamilton father Graeme Blake saw ambulance workers save his six-day old daughter, he wanted to give something back. THE RESULT IS CHARITY BROADBAND provider YelloHalo, which will donate all its profits to frontline ambulance workers. The aim is to raise $1 million in its first year for more than 1200 of them. A few days after they brought their youngest daughter, Pixie, home from the hospital, Blake and his wife saw her go limp and stop breathing. “It was one of the most panic-stricken moments of my life,” he said. “We called the ambulance, they were here within minutes and took control and revived her. We honestly thought we’d lost her. “I’d always had a high regard for them before this, of course, and when the opportunity came for us to brainstorm how we were going to give back, I pushed really hard within our group to make it the ambos.” The fund was unrelated to the employment of the ambulance workers, aiming instead to give them something extra as a way of supporting them and saying thanks. “We’ve set up a trust and have ambulance officers on the board of the trust, so they have clarity on what money there is to use, and they direct where those funds go,” Blake said. Early discussions had been around creating a hardship fund. Other options included affordable holiday accommodation for workers and their families, and professional development. “It’s not until you go through an event you realise how, yes they’ve made a career choice, but it’s in their DNA to want to help, it is quite special,” he said. Blake’s background was in marketing and software, and he is chief executive of two Hamilton companies which had raised money in the past, for organisations such as Pink Ribbon. He wanted to provide stable, ongoing funding rather than something one-off or once a year. Having worked with Auckland wholesale fibre provisioning business Devoli, and seen how they operated, the answer became broadband. AMBULANCE ACTIVE

YelloHalo CEO Graeme Blake and his daughter Pixie.

“From what we understand it’s a world first. It’s probably a little bit unusual in business that you want to give away your profits - we’ve got other revenue streams that support us individually.” Through automation Devoli had removed a lot of costs, he said. “We’ve got a fixed price agreement with them – there’ll be marketing costs, that sort of thing, but within the business there are no wages.” YelloHalo offered unlimited broadband from $89 a month, with no contract or break fees. The customer purchases a router. “We’ve done a lot of research into the competition, and they’re all big corporates which we’re not, and we fully understand that,” he said.

“There just seems to be so many hidden costs, and if you sign up for a contract they’re nigh-on impossible to get out of, you’ve got to pay your way out. “If you honestly think your broadband company loves you so much they’re going to give you a $2000 flat screen TV, you’ve got to think where’s that money coming from, and basically it’s hidden in there somewhere.” YelloHalo broadband was available through most of New Zealand, and offered a full range of internet services including high speed fibre plans, and ADSL and VDSL if fibre was not available. The YelloHalo Ambos First Trust fund was for members of professional union Ambulance Professionals First.

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NORTHERN TERRITORY

ALICE AMBOS SAY THEY’RE AT BREAKING POINT WITH NEGOTIATIONS ‘We just want better opportunities, better pay and to not go into work feeling like we’re being put through a meat grinder’ PARAMEDICS IN ALICE SPRINGS SAY they are approaching their breaking point and are rallying support for bringing ambulance services under government A paramedic, who did not want to be named, said ambos were attempting to negotiate new terms of their enterprise agreement with St John NT to improve working conditions in Alice Springs. Negotiations include improving rostering, resources and for staff to receive allowances to reflect the increased cost of living. However, the paramedic said they could not see things “changing for the better”. “We don’t want to seem greedy. We love the work we do as much as we get flogged, and we want to stay in the Territory,” they said. “But we just want better opportunities, better pay and to not go into work feeling like we’re being put through a meat grinder … we think paramedics deserve better. We need to try to get the public service to take over.” Several Alice businesses have displayed union corflutes reading: “We’re here for you but who’s here for us? Bring your ambulance service under government”. The Bakery owner Mel Darr and Page 27 cafe manager Kelly Edwards, who are both displaying the corflutes, said it was critical ambos be given sufficient support. “It’s crazy, it’s not OK. They can’t strike, all they can do is create awareness,” Ms Darr said. “The services are extremely essential. It’s essential that they stay current and updated, especially with situations like we’ve seen with COVID-19.”

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St John NT ambulance services director Andrew Thomas said the organisation had been in negotiations with the United Workers Union since November 2018. “Recognising that our staff had not received a pay rise during this period, we provided all staff covered by the Ambulance Enterprise Agreement a 2 per cent pay rise in the pay period ending 20 February 2021,” Mr Thomas said. He said the current offer included a sign-on bonus, parental leave of up to 12 weeks, pro-rata access to long

service leave at seven years, professional development days, allowance and a 10 per cent wage increase over four years.* Health Minister Natasha Fyles said a 2017 independent review found the service was operating satisfactorily and didn’t recommend the NT government take control of the service.

Raphaella Saroukos & Jasmine Burke NT News

AMBULANCE ACTIVE


NORTHERN TERRITORY

RECENT EXODUS ATTRIBUTED TO AMBOS LEAVING FOR INTERSTATE COVID CAREER OPPORTUNITIES Data from the Productivity Commission showed the Territory has the highest ambulance workforce attrition rate in the country NT PARAMEDICS ARE FLYING OUT THE door according to data from the Productivity Commission, which showed the Territory has the highest ambulance workforce attrition rate in the country. The Australian Government Productivity Commission’s 2021 report on Government Services showed the NT’s attrition rate was 20.2 per cent between 2019 and 2020. The next highest attrition rate was 4.3 in the Australian Capital Territory, followed by 4.2 per cent in Western Australia. St John NT chief executive Judith Barker said the 2019 to 2020 period was “particularly unusual” with many paramedics leaving due to critical service opportunities interstate brought about by COVID-19. Ms Barker said the organisation aimed to reduce the attrition rate by growing AMBULANCE ACTIVE

its homegrown workforce through the new Bachelor of Paramedicine offered at Charles Darwin University and Flinders University. “These degrees provide an opportunity for Territorians to study in the NT and to specialise in the conditions that our paramedics experience every day, building local knowledge, connections and opportunities for career development,” she said. “Short term, St John NT is working to address attrition rates through a number of programs aimed at increasing staff engagement, professional development and succession planning.” United Workers Union NT spokeswoman Erina Early said she doubted the new degrees would improve the attrition rate. Ms Early, who for years has advocated

for the NT government to take over ambulance services, maintained this was the best course for improvement. “It’s great to have degrees based in the Northern Territory but it’s not going to make a difference to maintaining qualified paramedics,” she said. “The only way it’s going to change is if the ambulance services goes to government where they can get training, treated as professionals, fatigue is addressed, and they’re valued and respected.” “St John is a first aid and training, and volunteer provider. It is not an ambulance service provider.”

Raphaella Saroukos NT News

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QUEENSLAND

Ambulances line up at a hospital in Queensland. (Nine)

QUEENSLANDERS CRAMMING EMERGENCY DEPARTMENTS WITH ‘GP QUERIES’ Queenslanders are cramming emergency departments for prescription refills, medical certificates, and even seeking treatment for acne. QUEENSLAND HEALTH SAYS MORE than a third of people who have visited hospitals could have been treated by a GP or seen a pharmacist, pushing out wait times for more critical patients who arrive in an ambulance. United Workers Union claims the Royal Brisbane, Logan, PA and Ipswich hospitals are the worst affected. “That means that our crews aren’t back out on the ground, looking after people in the community,” UWU’s Fiona Scanlan told 9News. “Paramedics and patients can wait six, seven hours.” Across the state, the UWU says the average wait is two hours. AMBULANCE ACTIVE

Over 587,000 people turned up at emergency departments across Queensland between October and December last year. At least 76,000 of those were for things like splinters, medical certificates, repeat prescriptions, sunburn, blisters, acne, and hiccups. For many, seeing the doctor is simply too expensive with $36 the average gap payment after the Medicare rebate. “A lot of general practices can’t afford just to bulk bill,” Dr Chris Perry told 9News. Experts believe the current Medicare rebate should be doubled to cover increased costs.

“What they currently pay GP’s is just stupidly low, it’s crazy,” Dr Perry said. “Barely paying for the overtime of your staff, you can’t be there by yourself.” But with a cash strapped Federal Government, it’s unlikely to significantly raise the Medicare rebate for GPs anytime soon. Leaving ramping an ongoing problem. “You can go and see your GP,” Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. “We really need our emergency departments to be kept for emergencies.”

By 9News Staff 27


QUEENSLAND

PATIENTS WAITING SEVEN HOURS BEFORE THEY EVEN SEE A DOCTOR Queensland paramedics are being kept off the road for hours each day as they wait with patients to be seen in hospital emergency wards.

PATIENTS ARE WAITING UP TO SEVEN hours in an ambulance or hospital corridor before being moved to a bed, according to a union figure, amid startling warnings of significant pressure on the state’s healthcare system. The Sunday-Mail can reveal that not only have some of the southeast’s largest emergency departments seen increased demand in recent weeks, but regions like Townsville and Rockhampton have also felt the pressure. United Workers Union national ambulance co-ordinator Fiona Scalon claimed that since the beginning of the year, it wasn’t uncommon for QAS to lose 500 hours a day because officers were stuck on a ramp with patients. She said paramedics usually do half a dozen jobs per shift but this had reduced to one or two. “The significant pressure on the system is felt mostly in the southeast corner but there are pockets across the state,” she said. “We have members reporting to us that they’re waiting six to seven hours at a time on a ramp waiting for their patients to be transferred to care. “There is a potential for a patient to deteriorate in that environment.” A Queensland Health spokeswoman said hospitals were recording increased

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demand because many people were choosing to go to an ED instead of a GP. “Everyone will be seen but we want to remind people that we must see our most critical patients first,” she said. “In January 2021, there were 212,784 ED presentations, 31,954 more than January 2020 (180,830). “More than a third of all ED presentations are ailments or injuries that could be treated by a GP or pharmacist. “During a peak in demand with many ambulances arriving at the same time, our staff will always attend to the sickest patients first.” Data from October to December last year revealed all 4,234 Category 1 patients were seen within two minutes of arriving, while 77 per cent of all cases were seen within clinically recommended times. On average, 34 per cent of people attending a Queensland public hospital ED weren’t transferred off-stretcher within 30 minutes in January. At the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital - 41 per cent of people weren’t transferred within that time frame, while at Redcliffe Hospital it was 46 per cent, and 49 per cent at Logan Hospital. It was recently revealed Queenslanders needing life-threatening medical help were waiting more than 18 minutes for an ambulance – missing the Code 1 target of

16-and-a-half minutes which hasn’t been met since 2014-15. A QAS spokesperson said it wasn’t uncommon for demand to be higher at this time of the year due to seasonal and heat-related illness. “There have been some peaks in the past week in line with expected seasonal surges,” they said. “Despite the peaks in demand, we’ve still been able to respond to our most critical patients within our optimum time frames.” LNP health spokeswoman Ros Bates claimed ambulance ramping was back to pre-COVID crisis levels. Ms Scalon said when the union’s members were spending the majority of their shifts waiting at a hospital, they’re spending their time constantly having to observe their patient. “They’re not getting their breaks,” she said. “They’re not able to finish on time. “They’re not able to go until the patient can be transferred to the hospital.”

Domanii Cameron State Political Reporter

AMBULANCE ACTIVE


QUEENSLAND

PATIENTS WAIT LONGER AS QUEENSLAND AMBULANCE RESPONSE TIMES BLOW OUT Paramedics are taking increasingly longer to respond to Queensland’s worst emergencies and are constantly failing to meet their response time targets.

QUEENSLANDERS NEEDING LIFEthreatening medical help are waiting more than 18 minutes, with the ambulance service never meeting its category one response targets since the Palaszczuk Government was elected. Newly-released figures show the wait time for 90 per cent of Code 1 emergencies increased by more than a minute last year and, at 18 minutes and 24 seconds, is now two minutes more than it should be. The target of 16-and-a-half minutes hasn’t been met since 2014-15. The revelations have led to calls for more resources and warnings that delays have real consequences. But the government has blamed escalating demand, which the state’s auditorgeneral warned over seven years ago. The Queensland Ambulance Service is also not meeting its targets to respond to 50 per cent of those jobs within 8 minutes and 12 seconds, instead taking an average of 9 minutes and 24 seconds, the latest Report on Government Services shows. Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates said the news should concern every Queenslander. AMBULANCE ACTIVE

“It means your child having an asthma attack, your father having a heart attack or your grandmother who just broke her hip is waiting longer for an ambulance to respond,” she said. Ms Bates blamed hospital ramping for tying up precious ambulances. Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said Queensland had seen a 24 per cent increase in demand since 2014-15 and last year responded to 417,677 Code 1 incidents – the highest number ever. “Against this increasing demand, QAS Code 1 response times are better than comparable jurisdictions like New South Wales and Victoria,” Ms D’Ath said, thanking paramedics who were dealing with increasingly complex cases. “In the most critical Code 1A incidents, paramedics achieved response times of 7.5 minutes at the 50th percentile and 14.3 minutes at the 90th percentile – well inside the respective targets of 8.2 minutes and 16.5 minutes.” The Auditor-General warned as early as 2014 that the demand for ambulance services was outstripping population growth and was a

“pressing issue” that required a whole-ofgovernment response. Ms D’Ath said the QAS workforce had grown from 3222 in 2014-15 to 4000 by June 2020 and 475 more world be hired over the next four years. United Workers Union national ambulance co-ordinator Fiona Scanlon defended her members but called for more resources. “The skills used by ambulance officers to triage and prioritise cases ensures that those who need immediate assistance get it,” she said. “With population growth and increasing demand for health services, United Workers Union advocates strongly for staffing to increase year on year.” Queensland paramedics treated 1.15 million people last year – more than any other state in Australia. Ninety-one per cent of triple-zero calls were answered within 10 seconds.

Jessica Marszalek

State Political Editor, The Courier-Mail

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TASMANIA

The union says towns like Queenstown that will lose because of changes to paramedic travel payments.(ABC News: Erin Cooper)

UNSTAFFED AMBULANCE STATIONS, PATIENT SURVIVAL RATES AT RISK FOLLOWING CHANGES IN PARAMEDIC PAY, TASMANIAN HEALTH UNION WARNS The health union says changes to travel allowance payments to paramedics are leaving some remote Tasmanian ambulance stations unable to respond to call-outs for hours at a time, prompting warnings people may die waiting for help. THE HEALTH AND COMMUNITY Services Union (HACSU) said paramedics used to be paid 46 cents a kilometre when they needed to work out of other stations to cover staffing shortages, but that would no longer be paid. As a result, paramedics will travel to and from remote stations during their shift time, shaving hours off their shifts at either end and leaving stations with either reduced capacity or none at all. Devonport-based paramedic James Watkins frequently travels to other stations and says people are not getting the ambulance services they deserve. “Studies show that for every minute someone is in cardiac arrest, their chance of survival drops by 9 per cent,” he said. “That means for every minute a station’s not covered, or that an ambulance is further away than it should be, the chance of survival drops very significantly.

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“If you’re in Queenstown waiting on an ambulance from Zeehan, about half an hour away, your chance of surviving a cardiac arrest for half an hour is basically zero.”

‘PEOPLE WILL LEAVE THE FORCE’ Mr Watkins said changes to the travel allowance would be “terrible” for the state’s West Coast as there was no longer any financial incentive for paramedics to work away from home. “The West Coast is normally filled by people working away from home for a week at a time,” he said. “They’re not going to be paying travel allowance [so] they’re not going to be able to attract people to those locations. “Decisions are being made without consultation and people are becoming so demoralised they leave the force and go interstate … the workforce is feeling really undervalued.”

HACSU acting state secretary Robbie Moore said stations would now be unstaffed for hours. “I’m aware of somebody in the Devonport station that had a shift in Smithton,” he said. “That’s a long distance that you’d have to drive, and drive both ways, so it means for four or five hours the station doesn’t have a permanently based paramedic that’s able to respond to call-outs. “That’s really dangerous for the Tasmanian community.”

PAYMENTS ‘IN LINE WITH AWARD’ An Ambulance Tasmania spokesperson said there had been no changes to the award under which paramedics were paid. “Ambulance Tasmania continues to pay paramedics in accordance with the relevant award, which includes allowances for travel in certain circumstances,” the spokesperson said. AMBULANCE ACTIVE


TASMANIA

“Following an audit, Ambulance Tasmania became aware there had been some misinterpretations relating to travel allowance payments that did not comply with award provisions. “Ambulance Tasmania has a legal requirement as a government agency to ensure all payments comply with award conditions. “We will be working with unions to ensure that claims for travel meet these conditions.” Mr Moore rejected the idea that travel allowance payments were not part of the award. “The best they’ll say is that it’s not an award entitlement, which is ridiculous because it’s been paid for many years,” he said. “Clearly, people should be remunerated when they’re driving their own vehicle long distances to do work to help our community.”

By Erin Cooper and Piia Wirsu ABC Northern Tasmania

HACSU’s Robbie Moore says the health of Tasmanians will suffer under the new rules.(ABC News: David Hudspeth)

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TASMANIA

TRAVEL ALLOWANCE DISPUTE REMAINS UNSOLVED YOU MAY HAVE BEEN AWARE THAT last month, TA claims were withdrawn for all travel that did not involve overnight stays away from home, even including night shifts away from your home station. We advised you that if you’re tasked elsewhere, you should insist that you start and finish at your home station within work time and travel in a work vehicle. We also told AT management that we are in dispute, but it appears they don’t care about that and have widely ignored us and our advice to members - they are simply not paying TA.

Yesterday your HACSU Ambulance Employees Sub-branch (AESB) Executive passed the following motion for members: The AESB Executive disputes that members can be rostered away from their home station without specific approval of said member. If there is no specific agreement in place, then members should not accept work at a new location. If tasked or dispatched away from their normal place of work (within their normal shift), members should expect all travel to and from the other location to occur within their nominal rostered

COVID-19 VACCINE ROLLOUT MEMBERS HAVE ASKED US ABOUT THE VACCINE rollout across the ambulance workforce, and what we know is the federal government and state government vaccine programs operate independently, with ambulance workers falling under the state program. The Department of Health received a tray of Pfizer vaccines this week and are commencing vaccinations from a ‘priority list’ but with randomised selection. The first 3 vaccine trays will arrive in Hobart so will be distributed there first and in the next few weeks trays will be delivered to Launceston and Burnie, with each tray holding about 1000 doses. Supplies will increase by mid-March and everyone in group 1a will receive at least one dose by mid-April with the second and final dose due 3 weeks after the first, scheduled at appropriate intervals, so everyone in group 1a should be fully vaccinated by the end of May*. We understand all group 1a people, including all ambulance NEPTS, volunteers and paramedics, will get the Pfizer vaccine but this group doesn’t include non-patient contact roles like admin and SOC staff so we’re waiting for more information about that. Public health recommends everyone be vaccinated if able, but it isn’t mandatory as some can’t have the vaccine for medical reasons.

shift without an expectation to work additional hours. The law is clear, travel for work purposes should happen inside work hours and that travel should be only undertaken in a supplied work vehicle. If you would like to discuss this further, please contact us. Remember: if we all stick together, we will win this fight. Right now, AT has decided that leaving stations and regions vacant is preferable to paying reasonable and justified TA claims. It’s not an individual member’s fault that a station is uncovered - AT is accountable for that.

TA DISPUTE ESCALATES JUST SAY NO. Today the minister issued a press release that said, “The advice of the State Service Management Office is that because there was no legal basis upon which to make the payments in the first place, mistaken payments will need to be recovered.” We disagree that travel allowances are above award payments, and we disagree there’s no legal basis to make the payment. Contract law is clear, when required to travel away from your place of work for work purposes there must be adequate compensation if you’re required to travel outside work hours using your own vehicle. Don’t agree to any request to pay back TA. It’s unlawful for the service to recover the money without your expressed permission to withhold money from your pay, it’s an empty threat, so don’t give them permission. We thought we were moments away from a solution on this matter, but this press release could derail and escalate this dispute for no apparent reason.

*Advice subject to variation

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AMBULANCE ACTIVE


VICTORIA

CASUAL CONVERSION Congratulations to AEAV Patient Transport members Nigel and Leanne, who were the first recipients of casual conversion to permanent positions with Ambulance Victoria. WITH MORE THAN TEN YEARS regular service between them, it was starting to look like both Nigel and Leanne were going to get long service leave before they got a secure job. After the introduction of the new EBA and several months of internal lobbying, members recently received formal confirmation of their permanent roles with AV. Under clause 22, staff at Ambulance Victoria who are in regular and systematic employment for a period of over 12 months may apply in writing for conversion to an ongoing position. Ambulance Victoria may agree to or refuse the request, but the request may only be refused on reasonable grounds and after there has been consultation with the employee. If you are a regular and systematic casual employee, please talk to the AEAV for advice and support in applying for conversion.

WILLS Did you know that part of your union membership means that you can create your own free will with Maurice Blackburn? All you need is your union membership number! https://onlinewills.mauriceblackburn.com.au/Landing.aspx Remember that the AEAV is part of the UWU, so you will need to select UWU Victoria as your union to use this service. Contact us on 9287 1713 should you need assistance.

AMBULANCE ACTIVE

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VICTORIA

Premier Daniel Andrews with paramedics. Credit:Jason South

TRIPLE 0 MENTAL HEALTH CALLS IN VICTORIA TO BE ANSWERED BY PARAMEDICS NOT POLICE, ANDREWS CONFIRMS Paramedics will respond to triple zero calls for mental health support rather than police and emergency services workers will have access to a unique mental health service under a state government plan. PREMIER DANIEL ANDREWS SAID ON Thursday that Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria would work together on how to best implement the change that would result in paramedics acting as first responders to calls for mental health help. “I think we can have a healthcare response to what is a healthcare issue. And that is much, much better, much safer, and much more effective than a law and order response to a health issue,” Mr Andrews said. The 3195-page final report from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, which was released on Tuesday, found hospital emergency departments were being used as entry points, with people unable to obtain the right treatment when it would benefit them the most.

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It recommended that wherever possible health professionals should respond to people experiencing crises rather than police and triple zero calls be diverted to Ambulance Victoria rather than Victoria Police. Mr Andrews also echoed comments made by Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt who said the last thing Victoria needed was a community mental health system that “doesn’t work”. “People are then left to finish up in absolute crisis, and then all they can see coming at them are people in police uniforms. That is not a great model, that is not a safe model,” Mr Andrews said. A new $6 million centre devoted to the mental health of emergency service workers will also provide better mental health support services for health workers and volunteers, the Premier said.

Emergency service workers will be able to access the centre with a referral from their GP. The state government also announced the establishment of a free advisory service for health professionals who are caring for emergency workers. Every emergency service worker, the Premier said, “can tell you ... about cases that they’ve been called out to, jobs that they’ve done where what occurred never, ever leaves them”. “What the mental health royal commission tells us is we need to be there for our employees when they need us – this work is not only high volume, 24/7, but it does take a toll.” Emergency service workers and first responders – including paramedics, police officers, firefighters and search and rescue workers – are more likely to develop AMBULANCE ACTIVE


VICTORIA

serious mental illness as a result of the trauma they endure at work. Police will continue to attend when safety risks are involved. Emergency Services Minister Danny Pearson said first responders didn’t want a situation where the first response to someone with a mental health issue was a police response. “We don’t send police out for a heart attack. We don’t send police out for strokes in the community. We shouldn’t be sending police out as a primary response to mental health – it’s no different,” Mr Pearson said. He said no ambulance or paramedic staff would be put in a situation where they might be in harm’s way when they were responding to an incident that could be dangerous. “Our staff are trained well to recognise potentially dangerous situations, so they’re not going to go into a situation where they’re at risk.

By David Estcourt

FIVE KEY RECOMMENDATIONS

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System published its 3195-page final report on Tuesday. Premier Daniel Andrews has committed to implementing all 65 recommendations made in the report, which include: 1. Establish dozens of local adult, youth and child mental health services in a variety of locations, reducing the need for people to travel a long way from home. 2. Create new crisis facilities and “safe spaces” for adults and young people, designed with the help of people with personal experience of psychological distress. 3. Create a new non-government agency led by people with personal experience of mental illness and psychological distress. 4. Throw out the old Mental Health Act and enact a new one preferably by the end of the year, with a primary objective to achieve the highest attainable standard of mental health and wellbeing for all Victorians. 5. Immediately reduce the use of seclusion and restraint in mental health, with the aim of eliminating the practices within 10 years. Immediately ensure compulsory treatment is only used as a last resort.

ROYAL COMMISSION INTO VICTORIA’S MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM The final report from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System highlights the need for more support, training & additional resourcing for AV Paramedics & first responders. Paramedicine is in the top 5 stressful jobs. Overworked responders who are managing their own mental health challenges in the workplace need resourcing in order to support Victorians properly. Read the report here: www.rcvmhs.vic.gov.au

Mental Health System Key Recommendations All mental health crisis ‘000’ calls to be diverted to Ambulance Victoria rather than Victoria Police. Responses to crisis requiring attendance of ambulance and police, are led by paramedics. At least 100 additional hospital beds. Extra 500 medium term housing dwellings for people aged between 18-25 in mental health crisis. New Government agency to implement findings. Repeal and replace Mental Health Act. Establish compulsory treatment as a last resort. Source: RCVMHS Final Report

AMBULANCE ACTIVE

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WESTERN AUSTRALIA

CONGRATULATIONS LISA MUNDAY CONGRATULATIONS AEA WA Paramedic Delegate Lisa Munday who has been elected to Western Australian Parliament! Western Australian health workers will now be significantly better off having Lisa representing the interests of union members. Well done, Lisa!

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