Remembering My friend Helen

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Some of you may remember “My Friend Helen”

It starts,

“I have a friend Helen. She was a lovely person, she was a great paramedic, awesome mother and staunch unionist. Over the years I have learnt a lot from Helen, not only about being a better Paramedic, but also a better human being. She had a great interest in others, and their rights and stood up for them via her work with the union and community groups.”

Helen took her own life in 2013. One night she entered an ambulance station, opened the drug safe and took a fatal overdose of fentanyl.

The wheels of justice in Victoria turn slowly, and the coroner has finally got around to Helen. Unfortunately, according to Helen’s union the coroner doesn’t see any point to an inquest into Helen’s death.

The Coroner is apparently satisfied that Helen’s employer Ambulance Victoria has changed its drug procedures so that this situation can not occur again.

I am at a loss to understand this opinion. Not only can it happen again, but it already has. Most recently late last year.

I have spoken to many currently serving paramedics, and they all tell me the same thing. That while Ambulance Victoria has gone to great lengths placing surveillance on the drug safes at stations I cannot really myself see how this will deter someone who intends to be dead by the time any wrongdoing is discovered.

Apart from that, in a practical sense, nothing has changed.

The coroner also apparently feels that Helen’s problems were her own, and nothing to do with her employer.

This is despite the fact that many of Helen’s collegues have criticised how Ambulance Victoria treats its staff. This is also despite the fact that Helen’s partner Cath (above left) has also spoken quite publicly about poor treatment and lack of support by Ambulance Victoria in numerous publications such as the  Daily Mail or news.com as well as on television.

The coroners own research found that paramedics take their own lives at least four times more often than other occupations.

Helen’s Union the Ambulance Employees Association – Victoria believes this number represents an undereporting of the true figures.

So how the Victorian Coroner can come to this conclusion is quite remarkable I believe. I simply don’t understand what this decision is based on when all the above information can be illicited by a simple google search.

It would seem that Coroners investigations in Victoria  aren’t so much Elliot Ness as much as Elliot Goblet

 

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Ellice’s Exit

This is Ellice, who has been a paramedic for nearly 10 years.

Ellice has just resigned from her Ambulance Service and wanted to  share some thoughts.

I don’t think it really matters which one, they all need to learn something about how to treat people.


“I Decided to resign as a paramedic after almost 10 years with the Ambulance service recently on the 6th of Dec 2015.
I have waited till now to post this video in hoping that maybe in that time I might have received a Thank you or appreciation letter for my 10 years with the ambulance but no such thing has come, not even some of my fellow friends/collages know I have even left. So to you guys I want to thank you for all the wonderful memories, fun, special and hard times we shared whilst working together, I will treasure those special times forever as you are all the backbone of the service and without you all, the Ambulance service would not be what it is today. In sharing this I also hope it brings some awareness to this issue and the Ambulance service recognises their employees as amazing, caring, life givers and life savers not a mere number filing in a shift. New chapters ahead for me bring on a new 2016 x x”

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Paramedics swamp police with allegations of criminal conduct by colleagues

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Police have been swamped with allegations made by paramedics about their colleagues following the ambulance commissioner’s invitation to staff to report criminal conduct to the police.

NSW Ambulance acting chief executive David Dutton wrote to a former paramedic who runs a support group for emergency workers last week encouraging his members to contact him with allegations of misconduct and police with allegations of criminal conduct.

The former paramedic, Steve McDowell, had raised concerns with Mr Dutton about systemic bullying within NSW Ambulance and allegations of criminal offences ranging from death threats to rape.

Mr Dutton encouraged paramedics to outline to police the specifics of their allegations.

But within hours of Mr McDowell posting to his Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon the name of the police officer that ambulance workers were asked to contact with their allegations, Leichhardt Area Command was inundated with complaints.

The police constable who had been named as the contact point emailed Mr McDowell at 9pm asking that his name be removed from the page.

“I am a general duties constable and therefore I do not have the time or resources to deal with all of these cases,” the constable said.

A NSW Police spokesman said Leichhardt Local Area Command had received “a number of phone calls” from paramedics, but none had made a formal report.

“The NSW Police force encourages all victims of crime to report matters to their local police,” a spokesman said.

Mr McDowell said 30 paramedics had informed him that they intended to report criminal conduct perpetrated by their colleagues, including incidents that occurred decades ago.

“Some have been physically assaulted, some have had death threats to themselves and their families, there’s been rape at various locations in NSW ambulance stations and quite aggressive bullying and harassment,” Mr McDowell said.

“It’s unbelievable.”

Mr Dutton told Mr McDowell that NSW Ambulance took all allegations seriously but unless further details were supplied, such complaints could not be adequately investigated.

“Your emails raise serious allegations including ‘systemic sexual assault’ and threats of violence,” Mr Dutton wrote.

“Although you have provided scant information, I am obliged to report these matters to NSW Police and have made arrangements to do so today.

“However, providing allegations without detail has the potential to impact adversely on any subsequent assessment and investigation, spread misinformation, undermine confidentiality principles and to cause significant distress to staff who may be named or otherwise identified but unable to respond properly and in line with principles of procedural fairness.”

Earlier this month, Ambulance NSW advised a member of the support group that she was being investigated for misconduct over a comment she posted on the Facebook page, which might have breached the social media policy.

NSW Ambulance said in a statement that when it received allegations of a criminal nature against current or former paramedics they were referred to police, and if an allegation was referred to police the service was unable to comment.

“NSW Ambulance has a comprehensive suite of staff support options, including a Peer Support Program, non-denominational chaplains, Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Grievance Contact Officers and a Health and wellness program,” the statement said.

Reproduced from SMH

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Not good enough!!!!

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Last night one of Queensland’s paramedics was disgracefully assaulted in the back of an ambulance by a patient on the way to hospital on the Gold Coast. As you can see from these photos it was a vicious attack that has left a dedicated paramedic – who spends his life helping and caring for others – with significant facial injuries. We are seething about this disgusting anti-social behaviour, which is becoming more common in our community.

Unfortunately this is happening increasingly more often in all states, and apart from injuries to paramedics it means the public has to wait longer for an ambulance as paramedics wait for police backup before attending a job, or because as in this case there is now one less ambulance on the road to attend in the first place.

Not to mention the effects on paramedics and their families, as outlined in this interview.

We will not tolerate paramedics being attacked and we promise anyone who tries it will feel the full force of the law. But we need you to help by raising awareness about this issue and denouncing violence against paramedics, health workers, emergency services personnel and in fact, ANYONE in our community. It is not acceptable in a modern civilised society and it needs to stop.

 

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Hundreds of distressed paramedics prepare to take unprecedented legal action against NSW Ambulance

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Reproduced from the Central Coast Exress, I wish the paramedics all the best. Hopefully this will serve as a warning to ambulance service managers all over Australia who seem to delight in toxic management styles.

DOZENS of distressed ­Central Coast paramedics are set to join a landmark class action against NSW Ambulance over years of alleged bullying, discrimination and harassment by management.

The Express Advocatecan reveal discussions are under way with group litigation specialists Maurice Blackburn in preparation for hundreds of current and former paramedics taking unprecedented legal action against the state’s ambulance service.

Paramedics and a senior industrial officer with the Australian Paramedics Association (NSW) has lifted the lid on decades of alleged abuse by management, a “militaristic culture” of being told to “suck it up and get back to work” after attending highly traumatic scenes, and a lack of support for those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A current Coast paramedic, who did not want to be named, said stress levels were “out of control” due to the lack of relief time between jobs.

“Everyone needs to debrief after being at a traumatic scene. But, because of the bed-lock and delays at hospitals, you just don’t get the relief time between jobs anymore,” he said.

“The bucket of stress is continually being filled up and never released.”

This was backed up in the latest NSW Auditor-General report on NSW Health on Tuesday, which revealed there were not enough paramedics to cover 24-hour rosters outside of metropolitan areas, and ambulance response times for potentially life-threatening cases increased to the highest level in five years.

Another Coast paramedic, who also asked not to be named, said: “I have a daily battle with the ‘black dog’ (depression) and have suicidal thoughts because I just haven’t received the right trauma support this year.”

It comes as new data shows one frontline emergency services worker takes their own life every six weeks. Most were men and the typical age range was 30 to 49 years.

Other analysis this year found ambulance workers were second only to veterinarians in the likelihood that they would take their own lives, with a suicide rate nearly four times higher than the average.

NSW Ambulance said it had increased support for all staff in recent years, including two full-time trauma psychologists.

“NSW Ambulance has increased its ability to conduct debriefing at the scene of an accident, or at an appropriate time following an accident, and we’ve expanded the non-denominational chaplaincy support team across the state,” it said in a statement.

“And we’ve introducing expanded managerial training programs, including two recent Central Coast workshops attended by senior frontline managers focused on supporting staff with welfare, PTSD and stress-related issues.”

A new Facebook page, “No More Neglect”, was started last month by former Sydney paramedic Steve McDowell who quit in January after suffering from PTSD. It is open only to the ambulance community and already has more than 2600 members. There are 3000 frontline paramedics across the state.

Mr McDowell said a class action against NSW Ambulance would send a strong message that the “outdated, militaristic-style service” needed an overhaul.

“Preparations are under way and there’ll be at least a few hundred current and former paramedics — and many from the Central Coast — on board with the class action,” he said.

“We just need to establish whether Ambulance NSW has breached duty of care under the Fair Work Act 2009 due to discrimination, harassment and bullying. And early indications are that we have a solid case.

“There’s never been a class action before against the ambulance service. We’re hoping it will not only bring change in the organisation and culture of the service, but it will properly compensate those who have suffered in many ways at the hands of management in the past.”

He is planning to send a petition, with 10,000 signatures, to the NSW Government calling for a mental health support unit staffed by trauma specialists.

“The public needs to know the ambulance system is at breaking point.”

NSW Ambulance said it had not been notified of a class action in relation to paramedics’ grievances with management and stress-related illnesses.

“Managers receive additional training on their responsibilities, staff referral to appropriate services, escalating critical issues and accessing expert assistance where appropriate,” it said.

“This integrated support program enables concerns to be identified and responded to, with the right resources at the right time, providing better outcomes for staff.”

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Don’t forget your mates

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While this blog is primarily an ambulance related site, the last week has been a rough week for our colleagues in the MFB in Melbourne.

They have lost two of their own in quick succession.

I would like to pass on my condolences to our colleagues at the fire services and their families.

“Tonight we kneel for their families, and our brothers that worked with them, Tommorrow we will stand for them.”

 

 

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Ambulance service targets staff who accuse it of bullying in Facebook group

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Former paramedic Steve McDowell set up the “No More Neglect” Facebook group

From the Sydney Morning Herald, is it any wonder that paramedics are right up there in the suicide and mental health “league tables” with disgraceful behaviour like this?

 

The NSW ambulance service is targeting employees who have accused it of harbouring a culture of bullying on a closed Facebook group.

At least one paramedic is being investigated for misconduct over a post to the group and NSW Ambulance has warned all staff not to post inappropriate content, in what paramedics have interpreted as intimidation.

“No More Neglect” is a secret Facebook group set up by former paramedic Steve McDowell who was medically discharged in January suffering post traumatic stress syndrome.

People can only join by invitation from a member.

Since it was started in mid-November it has attracted 2600 members, who use the forum to lend one another support, share their stories and raise issues about their employer.

These range from allegations of bullying, to the revelation that the paramedics who are being cited for bravery over the Lindt cafe siege will need to take a day in lieu to attend the ceremony.

NSW Ambulance emailed all staff last week to indicate it was aware of “concerning content” on the page.

Executive director Kylee Wade warned staff to be mindful of the social media policy, which required staff to respect the privacy of their colleagues and protect the reputation of the service.

Those who had raised issues in the forum should take them to their manager, their peer support officer or a counsellor, she said.

The Australian Paramedics Association said staff were interpreting the bulletin as an attempt to silence workers who were sharing stories of neglect.

Industrial officer Harini Kasturiarachchi said some APA members had received letters from NSW Ambulance indicating that they would be investigated for misconduct and possibly disciplined.

“APA (NSW) is of the opinion that the Facebook group is invaluable to these injured paramedics, it is a support network for many and it would be unfortunate for any member posting with good intentions to be reprimanded by NSW Ambulance,” she said in a written statement.

“Our members … have indicated to us that they view this action by NSW Ambulance to be a continuation of the alleged bullying and harassment which they outline in the group.”

Mr McDowell addressed NSW Ambulance through the page this week, calling on them to change their social media policy and listen to the feedback from staff.

“Ask yourself why staff feel the need to speak,” Mr McDowell said.

“In a supportive workplace, one does not find thousands of staff joining a group based on the neglect of their employer. It just doesn’t happen! Especially in these numbers. It’s the majority of your staff.”

NSW Ambulance denied monitoring the page in a statement to Fairfax Media.

It said mechanisms existed within the service for staff to make confidential complaints, but allegations of bullying made outside the service could not be investigated.

“Whenever concerns, complaints or grievances are received by NSW Ambulance regarding staff and manager, including inappropriate posts on public social media, they are assessed and managed in accordance within our policies and guidelines.”

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