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Boost to Victorian paramedics and nurses

Labor
Photo: Victorian premier-elect Daniel Andrews
Victorian paramedics are on the threshold of a new era with the incoming Labor government promising to resolve their bitter long-running industrial relations dispute.

Premier-elect Daniel Andrews has pledged to end the paramedics’ pay dispute with the outgoing government, with a finalised EBA set to be sent to the independent umpire for a work value case.

Labor has also pledged to change the culture at Ambulance Victoria, replacing the service’s entire board with new members.

It’s also promised $100 million to reduce response times, upgrade ambulance stations, vehicles and equipment, and to review call taking and dispatch procedures at the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority.

Ambulance Employees Association Victoria (AEAV) general secretary Steve McGhie said paramedics are feeling “relieved”.

“Our members have been in their industrial campaign for two and a half years - they’re tired, they’re fatigued, they’re frustrated, and they are now pleased that it looks like finally they will get an outcome that they believe they deserve.

“Full credit to them and unfortunately the previous Napthine Government didn’t appreciate their paramedics enough and I will use Daniel Andrews’ words - ‘they had a war on paramedics’ - and it didn’t work.

“I think paramedics feel that a weight’s been lifted off their shoulders.”

Mr McGhie said paramedics will also have a voice as part of a ministerial working group, the Ambulance Performance and Policy Consultative Committee, to fix issues such as hospital ramping, response times and dispatch issues.

“We think it can work - there need to be some pretty drastic changes in ambulance,” he said.

“Paramedics deal with the frustrations of not having enough ambulance crews and delayed response times and long hospital ramping times, and the call taking and dispatch process needs overhauling.

“There are lots of situations where paramedics are sent to emergency cases that are not real emergencies, so there’s a lot that can be done that can change it around in quite a short period of time.”

Mr McGhie said the union hoped to finalise an enterprise agreement, comprising a clause taking into account the Fair Work Commission’s work value process, that could go to a vote of members before Christmas.

He hoped paramedics could have a decision on their wage rates, handed down through the Commission, by mid-2015.

“We’re not asking for more - all we want is to be fairly assessed and valued by the Fair Work Commission after we put all of our evidence together and obviously we have to cop what they award,” he said.

“If it’s a significant amount, then they clearly believe that paramedics have been underpaid.”

Labor has also promised to enshrine nurse to patient ratios in legislation and pledged to allow private eligible midwives, with a collaborative arrangement, access to public hospitals to provide birthing services.

The new government has pledged to boost safety for nurses with a $20 million fund designed to upgrade facilities, and conduct a bed audit amid plans to increase hospital beds.

Labor also plans to fund 20 pharmacies, 15 in Melbourne and five across Victoria, to keep their doors open 24 hours a day.

Under the initiative, a nurse will be employed at each pharmacy to provide medical advice, such as wound care, blood pressure checks, immunisations and advice on referrals, between 6pm and 10pm.

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords