Striking Paramedics Say NSW Government Not Listening

Striking Paramedics Say NSW Government Not Listening
A general view of the ambulance entrance of St Vincent's Hospital on December 28, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. COVID-19 testing clinics are at capacity in Sydney with increased demand and centres closing for public holidays. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

Paramedics in New South Wales (NSW) are two days into a five day period of snap industrial action as their dispute with the government over staffing and wages shows no signs of simmering down.

On Saturday, paramedics brought forward plans for on-the-job industrial action after the NSW government launched a legal challenge with the Industrial Relations Commission.

Paramedics will not take patients’ billing details, will not report key performance indicators and will not leave their home stations.

Anyone who calls an ambulance will still receive help, says Catherine Treloar from the Australian Paramedics Association NSW, but will not be billed for it.

“Paramedics are taking industrial action today for patients’ safety and I think really the question is, are patients being put at risk every day by the NSW government’s failure to take action,”  Treloar told the Nine Network on Monday.

“The premier has indicated that he doesn’t seem to care about paramedic wellbeing by his continued inaction on these issues, so what we’re going to do today is hit him where it clearly hurts, which is the budget bottom line.

“The NSW government has unfortunately for years not listened to what paramedics say we need.”

The recent addition of 300 paramedics to the NSW workforce did not address staff shortage issues, and the sector needed at least 1500 new staff, she said.

“And, frankly, paramedics need a pay rise,” Treloar said.

“Three years of fires, floods and pandemic and what they got for that is two pay cuts.

“We’re seeing mass burnout amongst paramedics and it simply is not good enough that the premier has gone for a band-aid fix in this situation.”

The APA wants the government to commit to further funding for specialists and community care, to increase paramedic staff numbers by at least 1500, and lift paramedics’ wages.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said on Friday that further funding would be committed to paramedics in the June budget.

“(That funding is) incredibly important because they do an amazing job on our front line every single day,” he said.

He urged people to call an ambulance only in an emergency, saying people were increasingly calling triple zero in non-urgent situations.

The IRC will hear the matter on Monday.