Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 February 2018) . . Page.. 470 ..
As the Assembly knows, there are two emergency ambulance shifts per day: a 10-hour day shift and a 14-hour night shift. The day shift is 8 am to 6 pm, and the night shift is 6 pm to 8 am. There are 168 hours worked in the week. There are five weeknights, and 14-hour-long shifts. That equates to 70 hours per week. That means that 70 hours a week is considered a weeknight shift. Coincidentally, 70 hours out of 168 hours, or 41.5 per cent of the week, is the same percentage of shifts which were below minimum crewing. In his response to my motion last week, the minister stated:
… if it is known that there are not enough staff to roster to crew 10 emergency ambulances in the middle of the day, every effort is made to backfill the rostered shifts. The same effort to backfill rostered shifts might not be applied for night shifts during the middle of a working week. In these instances, ACTAS accepts operating with fewer than 10 emergency ambulance crews in the knowledge that the high standard of care for the community is maintained.
Given that 41.5 per cent of the week is considered a weeknight night shift, and 41.5 per cent of all shifts were below minimum crewing, is the minister saying that essentially the ambulance service was below minimum crewing practically between 6 pm and 8 am every single Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last financial year? I hope not. I do not think that that would be as easily the case. However, it is quite a coincidence, or perhaps it is not a coincidence, that the two number are similar. It goes to show that Canberrans do deserve an explanation. There is not an understanding of exactly how we got into this position and exactly how it has affected our ambulance service. Even if it is, the numbers of weeknights in a year do not add up to 303, which was the number of shifts below minimum crewing in 2016-17. However, the point demonstrates that even if every weeknight was below minimum crewing there would still have been other shifts that were below minimum crewing that were not during a weeknight. So, by the minister’s own measures, this would mean that some of the shifts that were below minimum crewing occurred during high-demand periods. Clearly the reassurances that the minister provided last week do not add up. It is not enough information for people to truly understand what has happened.
During last week’s debate I spoke of the stress that the constant requests to work overtime and the massive amounts of backfilling puts on the ACTAS workforce. In response to my points, the minister made it clear that if a shift becomes vacant it needs to be backfilled. The minister stated:
Those of us who have worked shiftwork and those of us who have an understanding of workforce capability will tell you that if a shift becomes vacant it needs to be backfilled. It is a normal operational procedure that happens in every shift operation across the country …
So said the minister last week. So there you have it: the minister is arguing that if a shift becomes vacant it needs to be backfilled, while also arguing that if a shift becomes vacant it does not need to be backfilled. Can the minister please make up his mind? If an emergency ambulance shift becomes vacant, do we or do we not need to backfill it? As always, the minister is trying to have it both ways, in an effort to avoid explaining what is actually going on.