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Paramedics denied leave to fight fires

Paramedics denied leave due to costs, manpower. Source: Getty

The union for paramedics has claimed paramedics requesting emergency services leave to help fight the bushfires have been refused in a bid to avoid additional overtime costs. 

According to the Australian Paramedics Association, correspondence from NSW Ambulance senior managers showed that requests to assist local RFS Brigades have been declined – not because their shifts couldn’t be covered, but because it meant using paramedics that had already worked a 38-hour week, and would therefore be incurring overtime rates.

But NSW Ambulance says it’s a matter of manpower, not cost.

In a statement to Yahoo Finance, a spokesperson for NSW Ambulance said that it had, in fact, already granted the emergency services leave to 17 different members of staff to assist with the bushfires, and the APA’s claims were “false”.

“Under S (44) provisions relating to declared States of Emergency, any overtime payments incurred due to the emergency conditions are reimbursed by the NSW Government to NSW Ambulance and all other emergency service agencies,” it stated.

“There is therefore no barrier to releasing paramedics where it is feasible, operationally appropriate and does not compromise our ability to meet the demand for ambulance services.

“Additional paramedics have been deployed across the fire zones to cope with the unprecedented emergency conditions and the very high consequent demand on ambulance resources. 

“NSW Ambulance has needed as many of our paramedics as possible on duty to meet this need. That is the only legitimate reason requests for leave during the emergency would be declined.”

APA secretary and paramedic, Gary Wilson, said the leave refusal doesn’t add up with what NSW Health Minister, Brad Hazzard, told all health staff in the state earlier this week, which was: “You have my strong support to continue doing whatever is necessary to ensure our patients and communities receive the care and support they require.” 

“The NSW Health Minister’s message of support obviously means little to NSW Ambulance in practice. NSW Ambulance should be doing all it can to support the fire-fighting efforts, not just things that won’t come out of their budget.” Wilson said.

It was “hard to believe” NSW Ambulance would put costs ahead of “overstretched RFS Brigades” and the wellbeing of communities across Australia, Wilson said. 

“Paramedics work tirelessly to help their communities. We have Paramedics across NSW, who in their downtime choose to volunteer with the Rural Fire Service.

“These Paramedics are asking NSW Ambulance to allow them to take leave, like other employees do, so they can help their local RFS Brigades and this is being declined to save a few dollars in overtime costs.” 

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