Ambulance crews working 'mind-boggling' 17-hour shifts

Trade union Siptu has raised major concerns over how ambulance paramedics are being treated across counties in the south and southeast
Ambulance crews working 'mind-boggling' 17-hour shifts

Sarah Slater

Some “burned out” ambulance crews are working “mind-boggling” shifts of up to 17 hours, according to union representatives.

An unofficial industrial dispute is being carried out by paramedics and advanced paramedics to highlight the increase in shifts to between 15 and 17 hours, along with the ensuing impact on response times.

Trade union Siptu has raised major concerns over how ambulance paramedics are being treated across counties in the south and southeast.

The dispute began 10 days ago on June 27th at University Hospital Waterford, with the union detailing examples of paramedics based in Castletownbere in west Cork being sent to Waterford, while another crew in south Tipperary were dispatched to respond to an incident near the Aran Islands.

Informed paramedic crews said that members based out of Cork and Kilkenny are also to join the industrial dispute.

‘Stop to this lunacy’

Ted Kenny, National Ambulance Service (NAS) union organiser, said crews are having to work “mind-boggling” 15 to 17-hour shifts.

“(This is) occurring across the south on a regular basis to be quite honest,” he said.

A meeting is to take place next week with management and trade union officials to discuss crew issues.

Speaking on Waterford radio station WLR FM, Mr Kenny said part of the difficulty is the centralisation of control rooms, with crews now directed by teams in Tallaght and Ballyshannon in Co Donegal.

“They don’t have that geographical knowledge of the southeast and the south, and then when they’re sending ambulances, they’re looking at the next available resource and that resource could be two hours away.”

We want to meet the control managers, to put a stop to this lunacy

Mr Kenny added that there is a shortage of staff, who are “burned out” by the current shift work.

“We want to meet the control managers, to put a stop to this lunacy and to put a stop to this practice.”

There are 1,345 members of the NAS. Another official who did not wish to be named said: “This is an unofficial action which has been taken by a collective decision by staff, owing to four main issues: staffing levels, finishing times, meal breaks and now daily harassment of staff.

“We at Waterford must acknowledge that our sister station in Dungarvan have now joined in our actions (since Tuesday). After a week we have had no engagement and we didn’t really expect any from management so we will continue our actions.”

An HSE spokesperson said they are “keeping a watching brief” on the unofficial dispute.

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