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‘Cost cuts’ hit ambos

Thursday, 1st December, 2011

 By Erica Visser

Some people who need an ambulance are being made to wait due to the local station being under-staffed, according to the Town Employees Union (TEU).

The union’s secretary, Rosslyn Ferry, said that locals who call for an ambulance have speak to operators in Dubbo who decide how urgently an ambulance might be needed. 

According to Ms Ferry, there had been a number of cases where the Western Division Management had made wrong decisions about staffing at the Broken Hill station.

Broken Hill has been denied staff that were needed on a number of occasions, she said, because the Minimum Officer Levels had already been reached by extra staff being rostered on in other places such as Cobar.

Ms Ferry said that Broken Hill operated under a separate agreement to the rest of NSW because of its isolation and should not be refused full shift coverage because resources were being used elsewhere in Western NSW.

“It’s not like in Sydney where there’s neighbouring suburbs that you can take staff from; we’re on our own out here and we need to provide coverage to an extensive area,” Ms Ferry said.

She said that an agreement between the Ambulance Service of NSW and the union has been breached a number of times.

“The most common issue is the breach of the modified roster agreement of staffing levels.

“This could be in relation to manning the station while night shift crew is out of town, delaying notifying the station of a call whilst staff is on break or near the end of a shift to avoid paying overtime.

“There have even been cases where a request by responding officers for back up from higher clinically-skilled officers have been refused to simply cut costs by avoiding the call-out of an off-duty officer.”

Ms Ferry said that the problems had been going on since early last year.

“In January 2010 we were in dispute over rostering issues, particularly staffing levels and the maintenance of the roster,” she said.

 “Those issues were supposedly resolved but in the past month it has been reported that there have been delays in responses to calls primarily because of inappropriate decisions by co-ord which are cost-driven and impact adversely on the service provisions at Broken Hill.”

Ms Ferry said that the public should know that delays in ambulance service call-outs were more likely the fault of the Dubbo co-ordination than the Broken Hill station.

“Anyone who believes that the delay has been detrimental to a patient’s situation should ask that the issue be investigated appropriately.”

The Ambulance Service of NSW Western Division’s Deputy Director of Operations, John Stonestreet, said that here had been no staffing problems in Broken Hill.

“The Ambulance Service of NSW Western Division has not broken any agreements made and we are operating at full establishment figures (that is, we have sufficient staffing levels to fill all rosters),” Mr Stonestreet said.

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