Updated: Jul 11, 2022
Article by First Union in Scoop Independent News
On the first ever International Paramedics Day, ambulance officers at St John and Wellington Free Ambulance are petitioning for the service to be returned to public ownership as part of current health system restructures, amid rising concerns about how the service is being run, including the issue of ‘ramping’ at busy hospitals.
Faye McCann, FIRST Union National Ambulance Organiser, said that on the first ever International Paramedics Day, ambulance officers wanted their concerns about the service heard by politicians rather than just hearing praise for their efforts during the pandemic. "It’s really hard for them to celebrate the first International Paramedics Day without wanting to tell people just how difficult it has gotten to work as an ambulance officer," said Ms McCann.
"On Wednesday in Auckland, for example, St John were seven ambulances short at the beginning of the night, which is unfortunately not uncommon in many of our major cities."
"For an ambulance officer, it can feel hopelessly difficult to begin a shift knowing you’re short on time and resources and will often be responding to incidents late and walking into unnecessarily difficult and combative encounters with the people you’re there to help."
FIRST Union members have also raised concerns about ‘ramping’ at major hospitals, where bed shortages can mean an ambulance officer must wait with their patient/s and vehicle until a bed is available and they can leave to respond to other incidents elsewhere.
"Having a ‘middleman’ like St John between patients and hospitals leads to a lack of coordination between key health services and is responsible for many of the difficulties faced by ambulance officers on the job," said Ms McCann.
"The incorporation of DHBs into Health NZ during a big-picture restructure is the perfect time to bring our ambulances back into public ownership and end the culture of contracting out key health services to private providers."
"With the NZ Professional Firefighters Union also currently declaring a 'Fire Crisis', it's clear that our first responders require urgent attention from Government."
The petition, which calls for nationalisation of ambulance services, is currently circulating among ambulance officers and will be presented to the Minister of Health upon completion. "It’s already one of the hardest jobs in the world, and we’re making it even harder while making the overall experience for patients worse in Aotearoa during a pandemic," said Ms McCann.
"Let’s mark the first International Paramedics Day by listening to our frontline ambulance officers and rebuilding a system that supports them properly to do the jobs they love."
- International Paramedics Day has been created, organised and run by the College of Paramedics in the UK, with support from professional paramedics' organisations from around the world. This date is the anniversary of the birth of Dominique-Jean Larrey, the man often referred to as the 'father of modern-day ambulance services'.
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