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Ambulance Inquiry Shows More Must Be Done

The Chair of the NSW Parliament’s General Purpose Standing Committee No. 2, the Hon. Robyn Parker MLC, yesterday released a report which examined the implementations of the recommendations from its previous inquiry into the management and operations of the Ambulance Service of NSW.

Dr Gordon Moyes, Parliamentary Leader of Family First NSW, was a member of the inquiry which highlighted major concerns with the Service’s management and culture, including the level of bullying and harassment. The report included 45 recommendations designed to address these, and an undertaking that the Committee would review the implementation of these recommendations.

Below are the summary of recommendations:

Recommendation 1: That NSW Health publish the results of the Chief Executive’s and senior executive managers’ performance reviews on the Ambulance Service of NSW’s website and email system, within one month of each review being completed.

Recommendation 2: That NSW Health establish a Key Performance Indicator in which the Professional Standards and Conduct Unit reports the percentage of investigations completed within three months. Performance against the indicator should be reported in the NSW Health Annual Report.

Recommendation 3: That the NSW Government fund NSW Health to introduce personal electronic access cards for drug safes in all ambulance stations across NSW, as a matter of priority, in the 2010-11 State Budget.

Recommendation 4: That the Ambulance Service of NSW ensure that on-duty crews, where appropriate, consist of two ambulance officers by 31 December 2010.

Recommendation 5: That the Ambulance Service of NSW replace all personal Satellite Navigation Units with one high-quality Satellite Navigation Unit, fixed in each ambulance.

The NSW Government supported 33 of the Committee’s 45 recommendations, and advised that it had either implemented or was in the process of implementing the supported recommendations. This has largely been done via the Service’s Healthy Workplace Strategies programs, which has introduced new guidelines, policies and training to address issues relating to bullying, harassment and grievance handling.

However, the general feedback from ambulance officers is that despite new initiatives, little has changed, and significant management and cultural problems remain within the Service. While awareness of the Service’s new policies and initiatives appear to be high, adherence to and application of the policies – particularly by Ambulance Managers – appears to be low, or at best, varied.

While improvements had been made to the Professional Standards and Conduct Unit, the members of the Committee agreed that there was still room for improvement. The Committee was contacted by a number of distressed officers during the 2008 Inquiry and this Review regarding protracted investigations. The emotional and financial detriment suffered by these officers is unacceptable. The Service must work harder to resolve these cases.

While the Committee supports the introduction of these reforms, the Service must not become complacent. They owe it to the hard working men and women who risk their lives every day in order to make sure that we are adequately looked after.

Ambulance officers provide an invaluable service to the community, and they deserve better treatment than what they have received. The Ambulance Service of NSW must continue to strive to create a healthy working environment for its employees – who are its most valuable asset.

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