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Australia Overworked NSW Ambulance staff getting up to $100,000 in overtime amid warnings of fatigue

05:45  26 november  2019
05:45  26 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Overstretched paramedics are earning in excesss of $ 100 , 000 in overtime payments - more than their regular wage - raising serious concerns for their health An Auditor-General's report has also revealed that NSW Ambulance staff had the highest rates of overtime , sick leave and excessive annual leave

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a red and white bus parked in front of a truck: NSW Ambulance is facing rising overtime costs. (ABC News: Dan Cox)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation NSW Ambulance is facing rising overtime costs. (ABC News: Dan Cox)

New South Wales Ambulance is paying some workers six figures a year in overtime on top of their usual pay, a report from the state's audit office has found.

During the 2018-19 period, 27 NSW Ambulance employees were paid more than $100,000 in overtime, up from just eight employees during 2017-18.

The services' overtime payments increased to $83 million in 2018-19 compared with $75 million in the previous year.

Eighty-five per cent of employees received overtime payments at an average of about $20,000 each over 2018-19.

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But despite the large payments, the root cause is that paramedics are feeling obligated to take on overtime work due to staffing shortages, the union said.

Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes said the overtime is leading to overworked paramedics being called to life or death situations.

"They're doing 12 hour days as it is. Can you imagine doing another three, four, five hours on top of that?" he said.

"People's lives literally are in the balance.

"They find it very difficult to say no to overtime due to the fact that if they don't do the job, who does?"

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NSW Opposition health spokesman Ryan Park said the Audit Office report raised concerns beyond just the health of staff.

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"It's a concern not only for their own personal wellbeing and safety but it's also for those who they treat," he said.

Mr Park said more paramedics were needed, much faster than the current rate of new staff being employed, "particularly in areas where they are simply stretched beyond what is reasonable".

Ambulance boss says more staff on the way

NSW Ambulance deputy commissioner David Dutton said an additional 750 staff over four years would help ease the staffing issues.

"In metropolitan areas, it's about providing extra crews into the system, improving access to crib breaks and improving response time," he said.

"In regional NSW, it's about reducing paramedic fatigue and converting to a 24-hour-a-day roster model of operations."

Mr Hayes said the ambulance service was still severely understaffed.

"The police have approximately 19,000 to 20,000 members, the fire brigade have about 8,500 members, the ambulance service have about 3,500 to 4,000 members," he said.

"They're putting all these band aid approaches into an intensive care area.

"At the end of the day, the workers suffer and the patient suffers."

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