Tasmanians who call an ambulance for less urgent cases may face longer wait times as paramedics and communications staff begin industrial action.
Health and Community Services Union (HACSU) state secretary Tim Jacobson said staff had begun industrial action after rejecting the Government’s 2 per cent wage rise offer.
Industrial action will include staff writing slogans on ambulances, claiming all allowances and breaks, not accepting any rostered overtime, attending rallies, and only accepting offered overtime shifts at their choosing.
Mr Jacobson said the industrial action would not impact on the delivery of emergency services, but may lead to longer waiting times in some instances, such as when people have minor injuries, need transportation between hospitals or need transfers from nursing homes.
Tim Jacobson says Tasmanian staff are paid $10,000 less than their equivalents interstate. (ABC News: Stephen Smiley)
“It may well be that there are lower domestic cases that people are left waiting for, but in terms of frontline emergency cases, there will be no effect on those,” Mr Jacobson said.
“The reality is that we don’t have a dispute here with the community, our dispute is with [Treasurer] Peter Gutwein and [Premier] Will Hodgman and their Government, and the ridiculous wages cap.”
Mr Jacobson would not provide a figure for how much of a pay rise ambulance staff were pushing for, but said Tasmanian staff were paid about $10,000 a year less than their mainland counterparts.
Paramedic Lauren Hepher said wait times for patients in rural or remote areas could already be significant, and ambulance staff had been dealing with an increasingly chaotic system in recent months.
“If your closest ambulance is tied up at the local hospital ramped with a patient and there’s no-one else to come to you at Huonville for example, that’s a very long wait for someone to come and assist you,” Ms Hepher said.
“Without being a scaremonger, yeah, there are absolutely days where the community should be worried about the ambulance service’s ability to respond to them.”
Tasmania has the slowest median ambulance response times in the country, at 13.8 minutes, according to the annual Report on Government Services.
Ms Hepher says some patients will potentially face “a very long wait” during the industrial action. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
Updated figures from the Department of Health and Human Services annual report shows the median state-wide response improved last financial year to 12.8 minutes.
Mr Gutwein is standing by the Government’s “sensible” 2 per cent offer.
“We believe that the wage policy of 6 per cent over three years is very fair, it’s reasonable, but importantly it’s affordable,” he said.
The industrial action came as the Royal Hobart Hospital (RHH) was again escalated to level four on Monday.
Level four is the highest level of the RHH’s operations plan, and is initiated when the hospital is struggling to cope with demand.
At 3:00pm there were 56 patients in the emergency department, with 17 admitted and awaiting transfers to wards.
A spokesman said the escalation would be reviewed on Tuesday.