Union rejects ambulance review
A review has found the NT St John Ambulance service to be satisfactory, but the paramedics’ union disagrees.
The NT Government-commissioned independent report into the St John service - the NT Road Ambulance Service Scoping Review - found that overall the emergency system is satisfactory.
Report author Professor Neale Fong says St John provides “a very good service”.
“In the Northern Territory, the road ambulance service — which includes emergency response and patient transport, call taking, triage, dispatch and retrieval — overall functions well,” he said.
But he noted that there was room for improvement in overtime and fatigue management.
“Many ambulance officers are working some form of overtime during their off days,” he said.
“This is a major concerns from a workplace health and safety perspective and puts [St John] at risk of OHS issues and poor patient outcomes resulting from staff fatigue.”
Professor Fong also noted a “reported level of high workplace stress”.
“There is a need to make improvements internally and in the Health Department itself to make [St John Ambulance] a better service,” Professor Fong said.
United Voice branch secretary Erina Early says understaffing is pushing workers to their limits.
“Paramedics are exhausted. They're fatigued. They're not getting breaks,” Ms Early told the ABC.
“They're working 12, 14, 16 hours.
“We had a paramedic the other month pull over on the side of Mitchell Street and vomit outside of the ambulance because of the fatigue.”
Ms Early said the problems stem from the fact that the NT's ambulance service is outsourced to the private sector.
“Code ones are being held over to save on overtime costs,” Ms Early said.
“The current service isn't resourced enough. We're of the view if it was run by government it would have those resources.”
The report did not recommend the government take control of road ambulance services.
“In my own view, there was not an argument made that that would make a huge difference and a significant difference by bringing it into the Department of Health,” Professor Fong said.
Health Minister Natasha Fyles said the report would not be discussed until 2018.
“The report made 77 findings and 44 recommendations,” she said.
“The Health Department will now work on that and I will take it to my Cabinet colleagues early next year.”