More ambulance officers for regions as deal is struck

ADDITIONAL STAFF: A long-running dispute between the state government and Ambulance Employees Association is close to ending, and more ambulance officers could be employed in regional towns such as Ceduna, Port Augusta and Whyalla. Photo: File
ADDITIONAL STAFF: A long-running dispute between the state government and Ambulance Employees Association is close to ending, and more ambulance officers could be employed in regional towns such as Ceduna, Port Augusta and Whyalla. Photo: File

Ambulance officer numbers in regional towns such as Port Augusta, Whyalla and Ceduna are set to climb after a long-running dispute over resources was settled.

The state government announced on Wednesday an extra 74 ambulance officers would be hired and paramedics' rosters overhauled as part of the resolution to the industrial dispute with the Ambulance Employees Association (AEA).

The agreement involves ambulance officers agreeing to work more shorter shifts and stagger their start and finish times, and is subject to approval from AEA members.

Treasurer Rob Lucas said the extra 74 full-time equivalent ambulance officers were in addition to the extra 187 full-time equivalent staff employed between July 2018 and June 2020.

Up to 24 will be allocated to country stations including Port Augusta, Whyalla and Ceduna, to bolster their workforce and further improve services in the regions.

Mr Lucas welcomed the progress made in the SA Employment Tribunal, with the union committing to recommend to their members an offer including significant roster reform, meal break reforms and the end of all industrial action.

"We recognise the enormous contribution our hardworking ambos make in our community and this offer will help ensure they can deliver the best possible service to South Australians while reducing fatigue and improving work-life balance," he said.

"The government has always maintained its commitment to compromise, offering more ambulance officers and paramedics conditional upon the union committing to important roster and meal break reforms and the end of industrial action - which they will now recommend to their members.

"We know that more staff alone is not going to deliver the safest and highest quality ambulance service and help solve the issue of ramping, which is why we need these sensible industrial reforms in addition to the significant investment we are making in our emergency departments."

The AEA said in a statement on its Facebook page on Wednesday that the offer of 74 additional ambulance officers was "one small step in the right direction".

It said the offer only represented an addition of three or four ambulances for metropolitan Adelaide and the removal of a few fatiguing on-call rosters in the country.

"Many more ambos are needed, and our members will continue to highlight the critical safety issues facing South Australians," the statement read.

The AEA said it had not bargained conditions for more staff.

"The AEA has from day one only agreed to new rosters for new staff, the AEA has not agreed to wholesale roster change and our current members rosters will remain."

Mr Lucas said roster reform was "critical" as it would help reduce the number of 12-hour shifts for a greater number of eight-hour, 10-hour and the introduction of 10.5-hour shifts, with staggering start and finish times.

He said the union had agreed to the new roster reform models being completed by June 30.

SA Ambulance Service has advised the recruitment process of the extra ambulance officers and paramedics would begin immediately once the deal had been approved.

This story More ambulance officers for regions as deal is struck first appeared on The Transcontinental.