Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 02 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 February 2018) . . Page.. 472 ..
The only new element of Mrs Jones’s latest motion is a call for the government to report back by the end of the March sitting period on the use of overtime to fill shifts. I am pleased to advise that I can report back right now. There is no exhaustive list of reasons for the amount of overtime worked in ACTAS, as the reasons are many. Overtime plays a key role in operating any 24/7 emergency service such as ACTAS, and we do not shy away from this fact.
In order to run ACTAS effectively, overtime can be used to provide relief for people who may be off duty because of sick leave, for example. We also pay overtime to our staff to attend late cases, that is, incidents that commence on one shift and carry over to the next, also for training, for meetings and for all the community events where an ACTAS presence is requested, for example last week’s Multicultural Festival.
I am sure members of the Assembly would agree that these are reasonable reasons to pay overtime and reflect the reality that, for an operational service, supply and demand can vary significantly. This is common across ambulance services around Australia and right around the world, and indeed for any front-line service that works 24/7, 365 days a year. If ACTAS were obliged to have permanent positions to cover all these elements which are performed in addition to staff members’ standard rostered hours, this would be a significant additional cost to the community due to on-costing and would not be an efficient or effective use of ACT government funds.
There is one element that I need to clarify. The hours of overtime worked in 2016-17 that are referred to in Mrs Jones’s motion were not solely for paramedics. The overtime figure relates to the entire operational ACTAS workforce which comprises more than just paramedics.
As I explained last week, demand on our Ambulance Service is at the highest levels ever. Despite this growing demand, the ACT has continued to record the best response times in the country over the past six years, as well as the highest levels of patient satisfaction. This is an outstanding achievement that reinforces the quality and performance of ACTAS over time.
I informed the Assembly last week that the Chief Officer, ACTAS, was comfortable with the resourcing arrangements in place. However, with service demand continuing to increase, the government is concerned for the welfare of a committed ambulance workforce as they continue to meet community expectations. These concerns include ensuring that staff have the opportunity for adequate breaks and an appropriate amount of time to rest and recuperate between shifts. The government undertook to address this with a commitment made in the lead-up to the 2016 ACT election.
The commitment was to provide an additional ambulance crew consisting of 15 paramedics to provide 24/7 coverage and to allow for an appropriate relief factor, and two ambulance vehicles. The government’s recent supplementary budget announcement in December last year not only delivered on this commitment but recognised that demand for ambulance services was increasing to record levels. In response, an additional eight paramedics were funded to enhance the current roster and to support relief arrangements.