REGIONAL paramedics will be supported by their Sydney-based counterparts who have voted in support of taking action to prevent the introduction of unsafe rosters in rural NSW.
At a meeting held on Saturday Health Services Union (HSU) delegates from around the state voted in favour of work bans to begin on Saturday.
Delegates voted to reject a recommendation made by Justice Staff of the Industrial Relations Commission that allowed for rosters to be introduced from that date.
HSU Acting Industrial Manager Tom Stevanja said the meeting heard members expressing their fears at the consequences of the rosters.
“The will see (paramedics) either working
or on-call and ready to work for up to 160 hours straight,” he said.
“These punishing rosters will cause critical levels of fatigue, creating a risk both to themselves and to the communities they serve.
“Our members have been campaigning for months on this issue: they have wide community support but the government will not listen.”
Mr Stevanja said the ambulance service was playing around with rosters in a vain attempt to disguise the fact that the real problem all around the state is a lack of staff.
“Despite a growing and ageing population paramedic numbers have not increased in more than a decade,” he said.
“All the current changes will do is to stretch an already overtaxed workforce to breaking point.”
Action to be taken from this weekend will include bans on certain non-urgent transports, sporting events coverage and overtime.
“Our members are frustrated that it has come to this. The last thing they want to do is to put patients at risk, but they are facing a crisis,” Mr Stevanja said.
“We’re already hearing some ambos are making contingency plans to move out of their rural areas, or even to leave the job altogether as they know they won’t be able to work these hours.”
“Metropolitan members are as keen as those in the bush to push back on this issue. They know that these changes are just the beginning and they can’t afford to wait and allow them to be extended to the city,” he said.