Page 4161 - Week 12 - Thursday, 1 December 2022
issues, experienced a stroke or a cardiac event whilst out shopping. An ambulance was called immediately but it took over an hour for the ambulance to arrive. This is just one of the many incidents that I have become aware of since taking on this shadow portfolio role.
The problem, of course, is not with the Ambulance Service—as we know only too well, they do an amazing job; rather, it is about the number of paramedics that are employed to cover an ever-increasing workload.
In June this year the Canberra community became aware that ACT firefighters were being rostered to respond to ambulance emergencies on Saturday evenings due to staff shortages. What is concerning about this practice is that this is part of a business continuity plan. Why is it that non-paramedics are being called out to deal with paramedic emergencies when they are already stretched to the limit?
This was followed in August by a very sad incident where a fire crew were asked to respond to a health emergency in support of an ambulance crew. Again, the problem is not with the fire service; I know that they also do an amazing job. As Greg McConville of the United Firefighters Union said, “Firefighters are trained in some medical emergency response procedures, including advanced first aid.” I have no doubt that fire crew treat patients with care and consideration where they can; again the issue is the lack of available ambulance emergency crews. These are only a few of the issues that have led me to table this motion today.
Last week several ambulances were spotted with signs on the back of their vehicles such as “We are not okay”, “We are not triple okay” and “Canberra deserves better”. I would have to agree with that last sentiment.
This led to the astonishing action last Friday by members of the Ambulance Service who took a vote of no confidence in the leaders of the ESA. What emerged were harrowing stories of long shifts, night shifts of 14 hours or more, and working for 28 hours in every 38. This is something that most people do in a whole week of work, not two days. They spoke about being exhausted, and I am not surprised. More scarily, they spoke of falling asleep at the wheel on the way home from such long shifts.
What was disturbing for me was hearing from people like Darren Neville on ABC TV that they had not been able to get through to this government and that they were not being listened to. Mr Gentleman spoke only last week about how much they are doing, yet we are seeing here that, whatever is being done—and we do not actually know what that is—it is not getting more staff on the ground, and it is not reaching the people who need it most—the paramedic officers on the ground or our frontline crew.
That is the crux of this motion. The people of Canberra want to know the details. We want to know what this government are actually doing to provide adequate services to the ACT to manage the health and wellbeing of our community. Ambulance officers deserve to know what the government are actually doing, not just what they say they are doing. They want to know that their concerns are being treated seriously.
Paramedics tell us that they have been waiting for seven years to see an improvement in their employment, rostering and increased staffing numbers—seven years. That is