BETWEEN wait times for ambulances, vocal pay disputes and working condition complaints, Victorian paramedics have spent a lot of time in the spotlight in recent times.
It has been two years and four months that the pay dispute war has been waged between paramedics, unions and the state government and the next 24 hours is likely to see a ceasefire.
Ambulance Employees AustraliaGeneral Secretary, Steve McGhie told The Adviser, “In Victoria, your average paramedic, who has been in the job for six years, is earning $56, 000 per annum.
“That’s at least a $20, 000 per year discrepancy on paramedics in South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales.
“Our guys are working 10, 12 and 14 hour shifts, weekends and publics holidays included.
“Even with shift penalties, which add up to about $15,000 per year, it’s not enough to compensate fairly for what they give up and deliver to our communities.
“In Victoria, our paramedics have been undervalued and we have urgently needed to address the issue to keep experienced and attract new paramedics.
“If we don’t arrive at appropriate pay levels soon we’re going to lose paramedics interstate or out of the industry all together.
“If we don’t have enough, we cannot provide appropriate ambulance services to the community.
“The demand for emergency medical care is increasing so rapidly due to factors like population growth, spread of the population, an ageing population, more complicated medical conditions and lack of health services accessible to the general population, which puts pressure on the system.
“People know that they can count on an ambulance arriving and providing care, but we’re getting to a point where there’s not enough ambulance crews to respond in a timely way every time.
“And, when the ambulance takes patients to hospital, there’s a delay in offloading patients due to insufficient beds,” Mr McGhie said.
Ambulance Victoria released figures earlier this week that revealed many places around the Goulburn Valley were waiting longer than the 15 minute target response time for emergency medical assistance.
The 2013 response times, whilst being 13 minutes and 58 seconds in Greater Shepparton, were as high as 26.35 in Mansfield, 21.16 in Strathbogie, 18.10 in Moira, 19.03 in Mitchell and 17.04 in Campaspe.
Ambulance Victoria Interim Chief Executive, Andrew Way said ambulance response times are not as good as they should be, but response times alone do not reflect the value provided to the community by our paramedics and volunteers.
“Response times are influenced by many factors including traffic, road and weather conditions, distance required to travel, availability of ambulances and demand for our services.
“Each triple zero call is assessed on clinical need. An ambulance is always prioritised to respond to the sickest patients first, especially those with life-threatening conditions.
“We provide excellent clinical outcomes for our most time-critical patients including cardiac arrest, heart attack, major trauma and stroke patients, and we exceed our targets for quality and safety.
“We look forward to working with our staff, the government, the union and health services to improve our response to the community,” Mr Way said.
Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews said earlier in December that he couldn’t be prouder that his first act of office was declaring an end to the war on paramedics and pledging a fresh start.
“We’re getting to work straight away, resolving this long-running dispute and reducing ambulance response times, because our loved ones depend on it.
“I look forward to working with paramedics – not against them – to fix the broken ambulance system and help save lives,” Mr Andrews said.