There were many issues raised about the health, safety and welfare of paramedics in Victoria.
Paramedics employed by Ambulance Victoria are the most likely workers in the state by a long chalk to suffer a lost time work related injury.
Paramedics employed by Ambulance Victoria are far more likely to take their own lives than other Victorians.
Paramedics employed by Ambulance Victoria are required to work extremely fatiguing rosters, without rest or meal breaks.
Paramedics employed by Ambulance Victoria work shifts of up to 16 or 18 hours regularly, unthinkable for truck drivers.
Anecdotally paramedics suffer incredibly high rates of both physical and mental injuries and illnesses as a result of being so fatigued for so long without respite. Gastrointestinal problems, cardiac arrhythmias, heart disease, PTSD, depression and anxiety, I could go on…
Imagine my excitement in recent months.
For the first time in many years in Victoria there is a government that is taking the time to listen to paramedics.
There is an administrator and a new CEO, that are most certainly “talking the talk”.
The trouble is it seems too many of the managers in between just don’t get it. A senior manager was seen at a Western Victorian branch telling staff that they would be “enforcing” fitness for duty assessments in response to sick leave patterns.
This is where they stand a paramedic down and subject them to a battery of medical examinations to assess their fitness for the job.
Make no mistake about it their job is on the line.
They dress it up in Orwellian style HR new speak all right, because the intent is clear. They seem to have it in their heads that the only way to reduce sick leave is to stand people down.
Why they are taking the leave doesn’t really factor, they cannot do anything about it. Sick leave is also a key performance indicator on which in part they are judged, so it is in their interest to “warn staff off”
I guess its easier than trying to fix the cause of the problem in the first place.
Particularly in an organisation where, in the past at least these so called managers have had no authority to actually manage. Apart from trying to poke their staff with a sharp stick. To try and squeeze that little more blood out of the stone.
They are far from the only organisation that has this problem.
Ambulance services in the UK are so short of staff they are in Australia trying to poach as many paramedics as they can.
Perhaps this cautionary tale may shed some light on why.
It is the story of UK paramedic, Melvin Salisbury
‘Over the Christmas period, he had been working 16-hour days. The stress of his job became too much and he suffered a breakdown about a month ago, when he was found disorientated in Great Hatfield, close to Hornsea.
He went home after that meeting and died.
Just a shame they refuse to accept responsibility, or even acknowledge for how he came to be there.