ESTA has been chronically understaffed for many years, and could have coped better with the current increase in community demand, had the service been advocating for more funding for staffing levels before the pandemic.
While the end of lockdown has put pressure on emergency services, it has also clearly highlighted that ESTA 000 has not been staffed and resourced to endure any kind of spike in service demand.
Instead of increasing its baseline staffing, ESTA has heavily relied on overtime shifts to meet increased work periods. This has left the service without a pool to draw from when service demand increases, as it has throughout the pandemic.
When staff are having to apply for annual leave up to 18 months in advance to secure time off work, then you know there’s an issue with understaffing. These kinds of problems are long-held at ESTA 000 along with issues of attrition but it’s clear that if workers are not able to take the leave they need, particularly in a stressful job, then they will search for greener pastures.
ESTA has continually hidden behind the pandemic as an excuse for their failure to meet demand when it’s actually their failure to advocate for a service that can respond. Now, ESTA has requested union members agree to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to help alleviate workload pressure and emergency calls waiting.
A Proposal for Pandemic Arrangements has been developed by ESTA and shared with the AEAV.
There are three parts to ESTA’s proposal:
- Additional Shift Allowances and Loadings
- Rostering Flexibility
- Short-term Recruitment – including student paramedics & labour-hire
AEAV has been in meetings with ESTA to discuss their Proposal for Pandemic Arrangements and engaged union Delegates to ensure that if an agreement is reached, it is reached for a period of time only.
Union Members have spoken of their commitment to the community to help people in crisis and that they will do everything they can to ensure the safety of the community. ESTA call-takers and dispatchers will support ESTA in ensuring that calls are responded to, and they will continue to ask, as they have for many years, that ESTA advocate for funding to properly resource the service.
On November 11 2021, AEAV wrote to ESTA in response to ESTA’s Proposal for Pandemic Arrangements. You can read the union’s response here.