Paramedics in industrial action
Paramedic healthcare workers perform the “unglamorous but vital” tasks of the healthcare system and should be compensated fairly, says a frustrated employee from the South.
Allied health is a catch-all title for dozens of professions, including anesthesia technicians, oral health therapists, alcohol and drug addiction clinicians, dietitians, and physical therapists.
Workers from the Public Service Association union began a fortnight’s industrial action this week in support of an unsettled collective wage demand and are currently working to govern, taking breaks and not working overtime.
A southern Allied health worker, who did not want to be named, said departments in some hospitals had suffered catastrophic staff losses, such as the physiotherapy department at Southland Hospital, which was down from 14, 5 full-time equivalents to 3.5.
Similar staffing pressures in the southern health system had contributed to the postponement or cancellation of operations and procedures, and patients were not receiving appropriate pre-operative care to manage their condition or post-operative care. to try to prevent complications or readmissions.
Many of the staff who had left were elderly, which caused problems with the provision of certain services and also with training.
“Novice and junior staff probably don’t get the mentorship and guidance they need and it just becomes a vicious cycle. Eventually they will also leave,” the worker said.
“It doesn’t help that the public health sector is significantly overtaken by the private sector in terms of what it can afford, which creates a bit of a perfect storm.”
The Southern District Health Board said it respects its staff’s right to take industrial action and recognizes their important role.
“Patient care and safety remain our priority… contingency plans are underway for life-saving services during this time.”
He was asked twice how the work notice affected services, but declined to answer.
About 500 health care workers in the south are PSA members: their work to govern continues until May 20, and a full 24-hour strike is scheduled for May 16.
SDHB Allied Health Services was the subject of a damning report three years ago which found that staff were stressed, tired and had a significant lack of confidence in the leadership and management of DHB.
“It got worse, and in eight months it will be even worse,” the health worker said.
“Paramedic health at all levels is really feeling the pinch…it’s a huge sector with many different professions so it can be difficult to get everyone on the same page, but 10,000 people across the countries said enough was enough.”
Elsewhere, senior medics could be the next health workers to leave their jobs, after their union representative penned an angry letter saying pay negotiations were becoming impossible.
The president of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, Dr Julian Vyas, wrote to doctors this week to inform them of the salary negotiations.
He grew “increasingly angry and frustrated,” he wrote.
District Health Boards appeared to have adopted a ‘siege mentality’ and were stagnant waiting for Health New Zealand to be fully established.
It would be in place from July 1 to replace the DHBs, but the transition would be gradual, and the DHB managers would be in place until the end of September.
The change could leave doctors in limbo after a year of wage negotiations.
“It’s hard to understand why our healthcare employers are doing everything they can to alienate much of their workforce that will be critical to the success of future healthcare reforms…” Dr Vyas wrote.
Doctors and DHBs resume formal negotiations today. — Additional RNZ reports