Paramedics welfare sacrificed to achieve AV targets

Often meaningless operational KPIs have stripped away the resilience and capability of Ambulance Victoria to do the job the residents of Victoria need it to do, Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria (AEAV) secretary Brett Adie said today.

Mr Adie said the scourge of key performance indicators on already-stressed ambulance officers was the missing explanation for much of the understaffing, poor patient outcomes and blown-out response times currently making headlines.

“What the public needs to understand is a ‘culture of KPIs’ in Ambulance Victoria (AV) and Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) over many years has put ambulance officers on a path to the current public health crisis,” Mr Adie said.

“AV and ESTA have been busy blaming increased demand and hospital ramping for current issues. However, ambulance officers and communications staff have seen first-hand a creeping culture of KPIs that have whittled down response capabilities to the point there is no surge capacity whatsoever.

“Even worse, the focus on KPIs is putting their physical and mental wellbeing at risk as they race against deadline after deadline and are pressured to make sacrifices that impact them and their families. AV and ESTA’s KPI achievements, over a number of years, have been at the expense of frontline workers and their families. The reliance on KPIs and the resultant failure to adequately fund emergency health has left our people stretched to breaking point.”

Mr Adie made his comments after the recent death of a Melbourne woman who passed away after not receiving emergency medical assistance, highlighting the problems facing the Victorian public health system.

“Amid escalating demand, AV’s and ESTA’s actions have been irresponsible and have ultimately led to an emergency health service that is incapable of scaling up when necessary. The system needs to be overhauled to allow paramedics and communications staff in Victoria to do the job they want to do: providing a service for their patients and the community in their hours of greatest need.

“Instead, KPIs have allowed AV and ESTA to hide their failures while the public health crisis has deepened. As long as senior managers hit the targets, they can claim they have done a great job and the executives can receive their bonuses.”

Mr Adie highlighted a recent report, which referred to Ambulance Victoria’s key performance indicator that 85 per cent of ambulances should arrive within 15 minutes in “priority one” cases. However, a review of emergency cases in Perth has found “priority one” was wrongly used in 94 per cent of cases.

The report author and AEAV member, Simon Sawyer, states: “The industry is beholden to performance targets that can harm staff while doing little to benefit patients’ health. Governments can tell the public the ambulance service is meeting its response time targets, but behind the scenes it’s the paramedics who are being overworked and burnt out to tick these boxes.”

Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria (AEAV) is a section of the United Workers Union.


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