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Ambulance woes

Ramping

The Chief Executive of Ambulance Tasmania admits they were understaffed this weekend but is adamant it's not a common occurrence.

An employee took to social media to say he was the only paramedic rostered for the Friday-Saturday nightshift in the Glenorchy region and had no vehicle to use.

"Everyone loves turning up to work and finding there's nothing to do. But when you're the only overnight paramedic for a city of nearly 50,000 people, including your own family, it's not such a novelty. Nearly a decade of budget savings has pushed us to the point where our ambulances are old and failing, and our paramedics and communications officers are worked beyond breaking point. So as a result I sit here alone, with no partner and no ambulance. In a city of 50,000 people. Just another day in the Tasmanian #healthcrisis," Mattie Pickering said on Facebook.

Health and Community Services Union assistant secretary Robbie Moore says it's a sign of how desperate the situation has become and has offered support to the whistleblower, should he be reprimanded for going public. 

Head of Ambulance Tasmania Neil Kirby says they're currently in the process of hiring more paramedics. 

"This weekend there is a higher than usual number of unavailabilities in the Southern Region. Despite these challenges and the very real demands on the service, our paramedics continue to deliver a high performing service. There were no adverse operational incidents reported to me last night," Mr Kirby said. 

"Ambulance Tasmania is impacted by staff absence, as is every other workplace. Leave requests are granted, rosters are finalised, and then sick leave is accommodated. Staff are entitled to take leave or be unavailable for additional shifts, so when short-term illness leave spikes, resourcing can become challenging.

"I want to thank our hardworking paramedics for the dedication they show our community every single shift. Every year, Ambulance Tasmania attends more than 84,000 calls for assistance. Every year, hundreds of lives are saved.
In terms of responding to the increasing demands on our paramedics, we are commencing interviews for additional paramedic positions and these will come on line in the coming months. We are also supporting our volunteers by recruiting a Director of Volunteers and appointing three regional volunteer education coordinators."

The health union is also arguing that nearly of quarter of ambulance vehicles in the state aren't meeting safety standards - a claim which is being rejected by Mr Kirby. 

"Ambulance Tasmania has an exceptionally maintained vehicle fleet where ambulances are serviced at twice the rate recommended by the manufacturer. We have already brought on line new vehicles last financial year and are bringing even more into the pool this financial year through our normal replacement program. There is no evidence that any vehicle currently deployed is not fit for service," he said.

Mr Moore says there was an incident earlier in the year where an ambulance's breaks failed and the van drove out of control through the Hobart airport roundabout.