NSW paramedics warn lack of vaccinations could cripple ambulance response

Thursday, 15 July, 2021

NSW paramedics warn lack of vaccinations could cripple ambulance response

The Australian Paramedics Association (NSW), APA (NSW), has warned that critical vulnerabilities in Sydney’s Control Centre could cripple ambulance response capacity, with only half of willing workers having had a coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine and no sufficient plans to ensure continued operation should COVID-19 enter the workplace. Control workers are crucial for ambulance response capacity, with workers at a single site managing Triple Zero calls and ambulance dispatch for all of Greater Sydney.

APA (NSW) President Chris Kastelan said control workers are some of the state’s most essential employees, adding that these workers bridge the gap between a member of the public dialling Triple Zero and a paramedic arriving to provide assistance. “The government has refused to put control staff in the 1A vaccine category, despite consistent warnings of the dire consequences should control rooms be affected. Some of our most critical workers have been hung out to dry. This is no way to manage a crisis,” said Kastelan.

The union has repeatedly petitioned for control workers to be prioritised in the 1A phase of the rollout, warning that a single COVID case at the facility could wipe out crucial ambulance services. Control staff have instead been classified 1B and have received minimal support to get their vaccinations, APA (NSW) stated, adding that Control Centre officers work 12-hour shifts in close proximity to colleagues and the role requires them to talk constantly.

“We are alarmed and disappointed that not only have NSW Health failed to offer these workers vaccination, they have also failed to develop a genuine contingency plan for if staff test positive or are declared close contacts,” said Kastelan. Kastelan added that NSW Health has compounded this vulnerability by failing to provide parking on site, leaving control workers to receive exorbitant parking fees or take on additional exposure risks by commuting via public transport.

“This lack of foresight shows the government’s deep disregard for these essential workers. We urgently need all essential staff to be offered vaccine options during paid work hours. Workers also need safe and affordable travel to and from the workplace, including free parking on site. If we are to avoid this kind of failure in the future, NSW Health need to listen to the workers at the coalface of our health systems, and prioritise their safety,” said Kastelan.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/loreanto

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