Waterford ambulance staff to take industrial action tomorrow as HSE fails to address concerns

unite-white-out-of-redUnite members say new procedures compromise patient safety

Union stresses tomorrow’s action will not affect patient care and treatment

April 4th: Unite members working for the Waterford City and County ambulance service will take industrial action starting tomorrow (0.00 hrs, Tuesday April 5th) following the HSE’s failure to address concerns about new procedures which compromise patient safety.  The action, on foot of an overwhelming mandate for industrial action, will not affect patient care and treatment.

Explaining the background to the dispute, Unite Regional Officer Tony Kelly said:

“In June 2015, the National Emergency Operations Centre was opened in Tallaght to deal with all calls to the ambulance service; the South-East Area was fully integrated into this operation in September.  Since then a number of issues have arisen, including staff being instructed to work well beyond their finishing times and go without meal breaks for 6 to 8 hours.  In addition, emergency crews have been assigned non-emergency work leaving little or no emergency cover within the city and county environs.  At the same time, the ambulance service is suffering from the ongoing delays in Emergency Departments, with ambulances being held up for an hour or more while crews take care of patients on corridors – thus further increasing emergency call response times.

“A feature of the new NEOC system is that the nearest available resource is tasked to take a call.  This can result in an ambulance from Waterford or Dungarvan being dispatched to a call 30 or more miles from their area, since local ambulances are also out on calls.  The knock-on effect is that there may be no resources available to respond to a call in the city or county, with obvious adverse effects on patient care.

“A number of potentially serious incidents have occurred as a result.  While most cannot be revealed due to patient confidentiality, recently a woman was lying on the ground for over an hour on O’Connell Street in Waterford City due to the lack of ambulance cover.  This incident was unprecedented and caused exception distress not only to the patient concerned, but to our members who are committed to providing the highest standards of service and care.

“In January, Unite wrote to management outlining their concerns and proposing a mechanism that could be used to alleviate pressures on the ambulance service and staff.  However, to date these concerns have not been addressed, leaving our members with no option but to ballot for the industrial action which will start tomorrow.

“The action starting tomorrow will continue for five days and will not affect patient care and treatment.  However, if our concerns are not meaningfully addressed our members may have no option but to escalate the action and withdraw all services”, Tony Kelly concluded.

The action starting tomorrow (0.00 hrs, Tuesday April 5th) will consist of:

  • Refusal by Unite members to give digital codes on the Tetra Radio System
  • Refusal by Unite members to fill out response times on Patient Care Reports
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