Ambulance Victoria defends rostering on Australia Day weekend

An AMBULANCE Victoria decision to roster a first-aid officer instead of a paramedic at its Wendouree station during the busy Australia Day long weekend was standard procedure, the organisation has said. 

Between Saturday night and Sunday morning, an ambulance community officer (ACO) was rostered to work with a paramedic at the Wendouree station. 

ACOs are not trained as fully qualified ambulance paramedics but are skilled in providing a support service. 

Ballarat paramedic Adam Phillips said this was the first time he had seen an ACO work in Ballarat and said it wouldn’t be the last. 

“The government said (it was) not going to increase the use of ACOs and (would not) replace paramedics, but we’re already seeing this happen,” he said. 

“I genuinely believe this will keep occurring.” 

Mr Phillips said when he heard an ACO was rostered on for the shift, he made a few phone calls to off-duty paramedics to see whether they would have been willing to work. 

“In 15 minutes I made 10 phone calls and found about six paramedics who were available to work overnight,” he said.

Ambulance Employees Association state secretary Steve McGee said rostering ACOs to work alongside paramedics was common. 

“We have been contacted by paramedics informing us of incidents like this occurring,” he said. 

“ACOs do a good job ... supporting paramedics and the Victorian Ambulance Service.” 

Mr McGee said ACOs cost less to roster on than full-time paramedics. 

An Ambulance Victoria spokesman said the rosters department and regional management team had exhausted all measures to roster on a full-time paramedic. 

“When a paramedic was unable to work their rostered shift at Wendouree on Saturday night, our rosters department and regional management team offered the shift to off-duty paramedics, who either declined the shift, did not return messages or were unable to be contacted,” the spokesman said. 

“After exhausting attempts to fill the Wendouree shift with a paramedic, the regional management team has paired the paramedic with an Ambulance Community Officer, who regularly works alongside single-officer paramedics.” The spokesman encouraged paramedics who believed they were available to work, but not contacted, to alert their manager.