Ambulance Employees Australia – Victoria (AEAV) welcomes Friday’s announcement of a significant investment in emergency health by Victorian Minister for Health Martin Foley.
However, without reimagining Victorian emergency healthcare the additional funding will serve as another temporary fix with frontline workers left carrying the load again.
The support package comes at a time when ambulance workers have been pushed to crisis point, as the state experiences unprecedented demand and huge waiting times at hospital emergency departments.
Whilst issues have emerged since the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, AEAV maintains that the system was in crisis before the coronavirus and the sustained pressure on frontline workers is causing significant harm.
AEAV has concerns regarding the staffing levels at the Emergency Services Telecommunications Agency (ESTA) that receives triple zero calls and dispatches ambulance crews.
ESTA staff have reported chronic under-staffing, creating a high stress work environment where staff are regularly recalled from breaks, receiving hundreds of requests to work overtime each month, and seeing the number of emergency calls waiting on their system growing longer and longer.
Quotes attributable to AEAV Secretary Brett Adie:
“The system has been stretched for years now. Victorians deserve a world class health system, and for too long we have been pushing workers to the limit, leaving no fat in the system for spikes like we are seeing.
“Minister Foley’s announcement is an acknowledgement that we need additional capacity in our emergency health system so we can avoid tragic situations like the death of Christina Lackmann, 32, while waiting for an ambulance crew to arrive.
“We commend the Victorian government on the support package and look forward to working together to ensure the funds are directed to the right places, as informed by ambulance staff on the ground.
“While this package is a solid first step, there can be no systemic solution without additional resources for ESTA and a change in the way we think about emergency health. The current system relies on the goodwill of workers and their families to keep it afloat. It is not sustainable long-term.
“ESTA staff are highly skilled and highly qualified, but the reality is if you don’t have enough people to take calls, you can’t offer the service that Victorians need. We are concerned at the lack of additional resources being provided to ESTA.
“Ambulance Victoria for many years has been squeezing staff more and more to get every possible second out of them. Not being able to finish case sheets, working on leave and missed meal breaks are no new thing. These were all happening well before COVID-19 and are set to continue.
“It’s hard to see how this new investment will undo the damage and alleviate the risk of paramedic burnout and support staff turnover.”
Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria (AEAV) is a section of the United Workers Union.
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