Australia: Problems with new ambulance radio system : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Ambulance dispute escalates

Source: AAP | Published: Thursday January 27, 3:48 PM

NSW ambulance officers are refusing to respond to non-emergency calls after escalating their dispute over overtime payments and a new radio system. The Health and Research Employees Association (HREA) said talks with the Ambulance Service had failed, resulting in the new bans. Union members have already imposed administrative bans and refused to use the new radio system because of safety concerns. HREA assistant secretary Craig Thomson said today the new bans would mean ambulance officers would respond only to triple-0 calls and transfers for kidney and chemotherapy patients. 'About 50 to 60 per cent of our work is about Mr or Mrs X needing to be transferred from ABC nursing home and back again, non-emergency transfers and that's what will be affected by this,' Mr Thomson told AAP. He said it was decided to escalate the bans because no-one was listening to the union's concerns about safety using the new radio system. The bans, which began about two weeks ago, are in defiance of an Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) recommendation for workers to enter talks with the Ambulance Service and to continue trialling the new radio system. The union and the Ambulance Service spent last week in the IRC, trying to resolve problems with staffing and the new mobile data terminals. Mr Thomson said problems downloading information from the system meant the service had no way of keeping track of ambulances or details about which vehicles were closest to the scene of an accident, he said. 'We are not going to be responsible for the risk of people losing their lives.' He said the new radio system was an 'absolute lemon' and should be abandoned. 'We are talking about information that can mean the difference between life and death,' he said. But the Ambulance Service said it was willing to negotiate to and resolve the dispute. Ambulance Service chief executive Greg Rochford said there was no doubt there had been teething problems with the new terminals, but the dispute now was only about changes to overtime. He said there had been incidents over the past few months where overtime payments appeared to be excessive. 'From July to December last year, a group of 10 officers from just one area in rural NSW earned more than $110,000 in overtime,' Mr Rochford said. He said the service would not hold back on overtime payments, but wanted to ensure it was being used properly and sensibly.

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-- Carl Jenkins (, January 27, 2000

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