The Ambulance Employees Association (AEA) are calling for serious action to be taken to address a critical shortage of ambulances across the state, including in Whyalla.
Currently the steel city is serviced by two ambulance crews on shift during the day. Overnight this changes to one ambulance crew on shift while the other crew is on-call.
The on-call crew are tasked with working four days and nights in a row - adding up to as much as 96 hours straight.
AEA Industrial Officer Leah Watkins said the significant workload was beginning to weigh down on the on-call crew.
"The on-call crew routinely complete many cases throughout the day meaning there is little down-time, then complete many cases in the evening and overnight," she said.
"Even when they are not dispatched, they are not mentally able to switch off from the job. The pager sits beside them 24/7 and at a moment's notice, they have to respond.
"This roster model is no longer appropriate in large regional communities like Whyalla."
Ms Watkins said the AEA would be taking the SA Ambulance, the Department of Health and the government more broadly to the SA Employment Tribunal to argue for the roster to be converted to two on-shift crews 24/7.
"This wouldn't solve all of the resourcing problems in Whyalla, but it would at the very least not put our Paramedics and the community at risk of them being made to work an archaic, fatiguing roster," she said.
Ms Watkins gave the following examples of the significant strain the workload places on the ambulance crews in Whyalla:
On September 27 at 2:35pm:
- Both crews at Whyalla Hospital - one had been ramped for an hour. Both had patients on stretchers waiting to hand over to the hospital.
- Three patients were on an RFDS plane on the tarmac at Whyalla Airfield waiting for ambulance transport to Whyalla Hospital. The plane landed at 2pm, over 30 minutes prior.
- Two patients at the Hospital had been waiting since 10am to be taken back to a local Nursing Home.
At various times that same day:
- A Priority 4 case had waited approximately 2 hours before an ambulance could arrive (KPI is 1 hour) and
- A Priority 3 case waited 40 minutes (KPI is 30 minutes).
On October 29:
From a local Paramedic: "I was on a day off and received a call just after 8pm to assist with a Priority 2 emergency case. This means that the night and on-call crews were both out on jobs".
On the night of October 30:
"The Whyalla night shift crew were sent off station to Port Augusta for a Priority 2 (lights and sirens emergency case) as both Port Augusta crews were tasked on local cases.
"Three quarters of the way there they were cancelled as one of the local crews had cleared a case but were asked to continue to Port Augusta for area coverage.
"Later that night the Whyalla crew were again tasked off station for a Priority 2 in Port Augusta. It took them 45 minutes to arrive to that patient having a medical emergency."