Ambos all fired up over cost-cutting

ALBURY region paramedics may strike over a plan for firefighters to do some of their work.

The Health Services Union yesterday said simmering paramedic anger had worsened with the news fire brigades would respond to medical emergencies.

Corowa-based union sub-branch president Peter Wortmann said Riverina paramedics — like their NSW colleagues — had never gone on strike.

“But it’s getting that way now that the members feel these sorts of actions may become necessary,” he said.

“The government isn’t prepared to listen to paramedics at all.”

Continual cost-cutting and “chaotic” rural rosters are driving the paramedics’ anger.

The union’s state secretary Gerard Hayes yesterday confirmed rural paramedics were considering a strike.

While he said there were “a lot of strategies we can put in place” he could not discuss them before the paramedics met on Friday week. Meetings will be held in Sydney and regional centres, although not at Albury or Wagga.

The NSW Ambulance Service has said firefighters could get first aid to patients more quickly, enhancing the service not replacing paramedics. The closest paramedic would be sent to emergencies.

The service’s first responder program is already in place in 48 NSW areas that have limited ambulance cover.

Mr Wortmann said Albury region officers were unlikely to attend the union meeting because “we don’t have the luxury of having many people to send anywhere”.

“We haven’t had an increase in numbers since the mid-1990s,” he said.

“We go from Balranald to Hillston and right across to the mountains to Tumbarumba and Tumut.”

Mr Wortmann said the first paramedics had known of any changes was in newspaper reports.

He said once again rural areas would suffer on the fire brigade issue.

“A lot have volunteer fire brigades or retained fire officers,” he said.

“All those guys have jobs — they spend enough time attending fires without doing the ambulance service’s work.”

He said a continual lack of consultation also angered paramedics.