Entire Hunter ambulance station on strike over roster dispute

  • Published May 20, 2024
  • Industries

Newcastle Herald, 20 May 2024

Paramedics at the Rutherford ambulance station have stood down, after planned union action was denied by their management.

A rostering dispute is at the heart of the disagreement, which has seen paramedic crews sent hours away to fill shortfalls in other areas.

Health Services Union delegates say the current arrangement is taking vital resources away from their local community.

Less than two weeks ago, NSW Ambulance put on additional staff at the Rutherford station - which has about 50 paramedics - in response to the needs of the rapidly growing population around Maitland.

The new staff allowed the station to put on an extra ambulance for both the day and night shift. However instead of serving the local community, the extra ambulances have been sent to cover shortfalls in regions more than an hour away, such as Nelsons Bay, Muswellbrook and Belmont.

In response, the HSA declared one of the night shift crews would be pulled forward to the afternoon shift, making it logistically difficult to send them outside the local area.

On Tuesday, when two paramedics showed up for their afternoon shift as part of the planned union action, management sent them home.

In solidarity, the rest of the paramedic crews on shift stood down in solidarity.

HSA delegate and Rutherford paramedic Adam Kearns said staff were disappointed that the additional resources given to the station specifically for its growing population were being sent elsewhere.

"NSW Ambulance own modelling showed Maitland is a growing area that needs extra overall paramedic services," Mr Kearns said.

"But almost everyday since the new roster [and new staff], a crew is being sent hours away.

"I live in this area, my kids go to school in this area. I want those resources available to respond to this growing area.

"I hate thinking that something will happen and those resources are needed, but they're hours away."

Despite the stand down, Rutherford paramedics are still answering the phone and will respond to life threatening calls.

The Newcastle Herald understands that although staffing levels have been increased at Rutherford, the minimum level of cars required in the area was not, which means the extra staff can be allocated elsewhere.

"We understand that occasionally we have to fill shortfalls in other areas due to sick leave or other circumstances, we accept that," Mr Kearns said.

"But what we don't want is the local community suffering their own shortfall every single day."

NSW Ambulance has been contacted for comment by the Newcastle Herald and is working on a response.