Paramedic hits out at pressures

Growing pressure on fewer front-line staff was being ignored as management jobs appeared to multiply, the letter said.
Growing pressure on fewer front-line staff was being ignored as management jobs appeared to multiply, the letter said. Jason Dougherty

A DISGRUNTLED paramedic has attacked the Queensland Ambulance Service, warning of neglected hinterland towns and overbearing management.

In an unsigned letter to the Daily, the writer said he had more than a decade of experience as a paramedic.

The letter was a result of "built-up desperation" for change.

Growing pressure on fewer front-line staff was being ignored as management jobs appeared to multiply, the letter said.

These were often filled by staff trying to escape the grind of night shifts and poor working conditions.

The views were rejected by the Department of Community Safety, which represents the QAS.

The union for ambulance workers - United Voice - conceded there were problems but its representatives did not know specifics.

The writer said morale was deteriorating as paramedics worked without proper meal breaks on a 12-hour shift.

"(Management) believes it is okay to allocate a half-hour meal break at 3am in Beerwah to a crew from the northern end of the Coast," the letter said.

"They believe this is okay even though the crew is an hour's drive from their station where their home-made meals are in the fridge."

The QAS is accused of covering up station closures to save on paying overtime.

"Often when someone calls in sick, (QAS) don't call in a staff member who has made themselves available for overtime," the letter said.

"This is a dangerous and unethical way of reducing their overtime budget.

"For example, in May 2011, for two nights in a row the Beerwah station was closed both Friday and Saturday nights.

"This is a dangerous practice that left the entire hinterland uncovered and at risk."

United Voice area ambulance coordinator Jeanette Temperley agreed there were staff shortages but could not comment on apparent station closures.

She said staff shortages could contribute to front-line staff moving into office roles.

"There are people who move into those management roles for different reasons," Ms Temperley said.

"It is possible some of them may not want the pressure on the road."

A Department of Community Safety spokeswoman said being forced to close a station due to "unfilled shifts" was rare and only occurred if there were no other options.

The norm, she said, was that more than 99% of shifts were filled.

The spokeswoman said the Coast was not losing staff because it was a sought-after destination.

"In the past 12 months, no paramedic has left their on-road position to move into a clerical role in the Sunshine Coast area," she said.

"The area has 206 full-time paramedics - including officers-in-charge - and one area director position."

There were another five "regional operation supervisors".

"This is a dangerous practice that left the hinterland at risk."

Topics:  ambulance, emergency, health, hospital, paramedic

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