Ambulance Services Struggling With Unplanned Leave

Regional Victoria has been left without an ambulance on duty, with 1013 shifts being left unfilled in 2011 due to the higher number of unplanned leave hours, Labor’s Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Wade Noonan, said today.

Ambulance paramedics in regional and rural areas of the state had an average of 32 hours more unplanned leave in 2011-12 compared to their city based colleagues, according to an Auditor-General’s Report tabled in Parliament today.

“Unplanned leave among our over-worked paramedics is crippling the capacity of our regional and rural branches to fill their shifts,” Mr Noonan said.

“Every time a shift goes unfilled, people living in regional Victoria are left dangerously exposed.

“What this means is entire communities are left without any ambulance cover – which could potentially lead to life-threatening situation.”

Mr Noonan said the Auditor-General’s report highlighted concerns about the centralisation of rostering arrangements and indicated that team managers had reported this policy had contributed to the problem of managing unplanned leave in regional and rural Victoria.

“Clearly, the policy of centralising rostering arrangements in Melbourne has caused real problems, particularly in regional areas of the state,” Mr Noonan said.

“Many paramedics have told me the centralised roster system is a shambles and that it needs to be handed back to the regional and rural management team.”

The Victorian Auditor General’s report, titled Management of Unplanned Leave in Emergency Services, also revealed:

  • Personal unplanned leave in rural areas was 143.5 hours per FTE compared to 111.3 hours in metropolitan regions;
  • Workcover leave was higher in rural regions;
  • Rural regions have considerably more operational staff aged over 45 years compared to metropolitan areas;
  • Rural staff account for 86% of unplanned leave periods of five or more consecutive shifts.

“Today’s Auditor-General’s report shows more than just the 1000 unfilled shifts recorded in country Victoria throughout 2011 – it shows an ambulance system that is struggling to cope,” he said.

“Mr Baillieu needs to provide hard-working ambulance workers and Ambulance Victoria the support they need to ensure every Victorian has access to a reliable first rate service.”