I was reading an article on the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigades (MFB) annual report where the Chief executive of the MFB was reported as saying, “We have no particular allocation that is provided for legal expenses. But I agree … absolutely, we could use the money to deliver community safety outcomes in preference to using it to fund expensive legal issues.”
According to the MFB’s 2013-14 annual reported, tabled in Parliament last week, the fire brigade spent almost 10 per cent more in legal costs, up from $3.9 million to $4.3 million, and almost three times as much in consultant fees, from $303,000 to $874,000. Meanwhile less was being spent on training, development, communications, uniforms and plant and maintenance equipment.
This got me thinking, and wondering what of the paramedics dispute that is now in it’s third year.
What is the cost? I am not so worried about the dollars as such.
I am not even worrying in this case about a pay rise, although not having had one since 2011 is really wearing quite thin.
The comment about less being spent on training, development, communications, uniforms and plant and maintenance equipment really caught my eye.
Ambulance Victoria, and the government via the Department of Health have been playing a delaying game for the last several years.
If the MFB can blow over $5 million on lawyers and consultants in a single twelve month period, the mind boggles at how much Ambulance Victoria has blown in the last few years.
AV is a much larger organisation with probably in excess of double the front line employees, and is state wide as opposed to the MFB which covers the majority of inner and middle Melbourne. (the outer reaches of Melbourne being covered by CFA as well as rural and regional areas in Victoria)
Given how much bigger the organisation of AV must be due to its state wide nature, more staff and call outs it is reasonable to assume it spends more on these things than the MFB.
Given its ongoing poisonous relationship with its front line staff, potentially many more times.
But we will be generous, its double the size, so I’ll just say double. (although instinct and experience make me suspect much more)
OK, so at that point we are at in excess of $10 million a year.
Then this dispute with its employees has gone on for over 2 years now, so in fact we are over $20 million dollars, and that doesn’t take into account the in excess of $1.2 million that the government has spent on print media advertising trying to demonize AV’s employees.
So conservatively I cannot help but wonder if AV must be up to over $22 million in lawyers and consultants over the last two years of this dispute.
So I cannot help but wonder, while I drive for an hour under lights and sirens for over an hour to my next patient, as ESTA insist I am closest, whether that is the most efficient and responsible use of Victorian taxpayer funds.
In fact while you wait with your Nana for several hours as she lies on the kitchen floor in agony after falling and breaking her hip, you may wonder the same thing.
But rest assured, I am sure the lawyers and consultants and employee relations warriors will not be in the least interested. For to them as stated by the head of the DoH’s industrial relations in a meeting in front of a large group of paramedics who were horrified to hear him state that patient suffering was not an issue, “it was a smart arse propaganda point.”
Are these numbers accurate, I have no idea. You can be assured though that if I request them AV will employ more bloody lawyers to block access, and the poor fellow who runs this blog may get yet another threatening letter from AV’s lawyers in an attempt to get him to take down anything critical.
But then again, that’s my point. It wouldn’t enter their heads to put it towards front line ambulance provision.