Mr Bradfield said this was having a “knock-on effect”, stating that staff members were at “breaking point” and suffering from burnout.
But Unite’s strike action will not affect Ambulance Service for public
Kieran Foley reports
UNITE members at Waterford’s Ambulance Service have voted in favour of strike action which will commence today (Tuesday) April 5th.
The action will result in certain paperwork not being completed but will not affect the service provided to the public.
However, Keith Bradfield, paramedic and Unite shop steward, told The Munster Express that the action may escalate if the concerns of staff members are not addressed.
He said the decision to issue strike notice was taken as a result of health and safety concerns for both staff members and the public.
Mr Bradfield said many staff members were at “breaking point” and suffering from burnout.
The strike action involves 30 Unite members in both Waterford and Dungarvan stations. All of those who were balloted voted in favour of action.
The dispute centres on a new system which came into operation last September.
“A national ambulance control centre opened in Tallaght last September where all calls made to the ambulance service are now dealt with from,” he explained.
“Since then, issues have arisen where staff have been instructed to work over and well beyond their finishing times and go without meal breaks for six to eight hours. Emergency crews are doing non-emergency work, leaving little or no cover within the city and county environs. Previously, if a GP rang in a call you could ask if the call could wait an hour or two so you could stack the calls. Now, all calls are put through the 999 system.”
“Recently in Waterford City we had a woman lying on the ground for over an hour on O’Connell Street – a situation that has never arisen before and a situation that should never happen,” he said.
“Yet there was no redress to this incident. This is just one scenario – there are numerous others. These incidents are becoming more common place and put additional stress on staff who are already near breaking point.”
In January, Unite wrote to managers outlining concerns and calling for a mechanism that could be used to alleviate pressures on staff and pressures on the ambulance service in general.
However, Mr Bradfield said that these issues have not been addressed and staff members are therefore forced to take action.
He moved to assure members of the public that patient care and treatment will not be affected by the action that will be taken by members.
Mr Bradfield said that members of Waterford Ambulance Service pride themselves on the service which they provide.
He explained that the strike action will initially only impact on statistics and record keeping etc. and patient care will remain among the highest quality in the country.
Members will still respond to calls, but Mr Bradfield added “we’ll be upping the ante as we go along.”
“If meaningful commitments are not given, staff members may have no option but to withdraw all services,” he said.
Mr Bradfield stressed that the decision to issue strike notice was not taken lightly.
“We will still be providing services until we’re really pushed to the limit when services will be fully withdrawn,” he said.
“We provide the best service we can to the public. But now we feel that we can’t give that service. Staff are under extra stress. If you talk to any of our members, they will tell you they are suffering from burnout. The new system just isn’t working and we don’t have enough resources.”
He added that Waterford’s Ambulance Service is one of the busiest in the country outside of Dublin.
In response to a query from The Munster Express, a HSE spokesperson said: “The National Ambulance Service (NAS) have been notified by the Unite Union, who represent ambulance staff in the area, that they have balloted their members in Waterford on industrial relations issues.
“In line with normal industrial relations procedures, NAS have requested that the union enter into dialogue and discussion.”