New England paramedics call for station and radio upgrades

FRUSTRATED: Australian Paramedics Association delegate Scott Clarke is concerned of the current working conditions. Photo: Gareth Gardner
FRUSTRATED: Australian Paramedics Association delegate Scott Clarke is concerned of the current working conditions. Photo: Gareth Gardner

NEW England paramedics are rostered on without vehicles, working in out-of-date and rat-infested stations, and driving to urgent call-outs without radio service, an Australian Paramedics Association (APA) delegate has claimed.

In the wake of a $4.5 billion budget surplus announced by the NSW government on Tuesday, the union body has called on the state’s leaders to use some of the money to upgrade ambulance stations, radio networks and provide more vehicles to paramedics in the bush.

They have also called for a new ambulance station in central Tamworth, 90 years to the day since the Marius St station first opened.

“There are some infrastructure issues, in particular the maintenance to ambulance facilities,” APA union delegate Scott Clarke said.

“Here we are sitting on a $4.5 billion surplus and you can’t even park an ambulance at Wee Waa, you can’t park them at Ashford. The windows were painted shut at Quirindi and the air-conditioning didn’t work. We’re putting in maintenance requests to get this stuff fixed and it’s not happening.

“We had to get Workcover involved in Armidale, because there was that much rat faeces in the air-conditioning ducts that Workcover had to get involved to try and fix the problem.

“The surplus is great but we need some money spent on our ambulance stations, on our infrastructure on the ground, the vehicles, the radios and communications – it’s all vitally important to allow us to do our job.”

Among the maintenance issues also of concern to paramedics was mould at Glen Innes station, leaking roofs at Tamworth station and a red back spider problem in Gunnedah.

Mr Clarke said communication was also an issue.

“Tamworth vehicles who travel south of Willow Tree and Murrurundi essentially have no radio communications whatsoever and these guys are frequently doing trips, and at Woolomin also,” he said.

“We’ve got no way of communicating with the operations centre and there’s a multitude of safety issues there. likewise west of Gunnedah, we have nothing. It all comes down to funding.”

He said paramedics were also running short of cars which posed an issue when called to urgent jobs. “There have been instances where paramedics have been rostered on, on duty with no ambulance vehicle to use.”

“It’s fantastic the government have a $4.5 billion surplus but I think the community would expect that If I’ve got a paramedic on duty they’re going to have a vehicle to use, because if I ring triple-0 I’d expect them to be turning up here in a timely manner.

“It comes down to vehicle availability and if the Government and the service as a whole aren’t going to supply these vehicles and make them available locally it makes it very, very difficult.”

Association president Steve Pearce said paramedics were leaving their jobs in NSW for other states to access better working conditions.

“You can imagine why paramedics are angry when they are being ignored in the Budget year after year and yet every day of their working lives they are doing their best for the public with failing infrastructure and inadequate staffing numbers.”

“There are many stations which are falling apart, not just the buildings but the furniture and equipment,” Mr Pearce said.

The Leader approached Ambulance NSW for comment on the issued raised by the association, but they were unable to offer a response by press time on Wednesday.