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Union vows to continue highlighting ambo crisis - but not as much


The ambulance union says it will hold the incoming Labor government to account over promises to immediately tackle ramping and response times which were the focus of an aggressive campaign against the Marshall Government – but won’t highlight issues “to the extent that we have been”.

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Ramping, response times and crowded hospitals were Labor’s main campaign focus against the Liberals, spearheaded by a sustained campaign from the Ambulance Employees Association highlighting delays and patient deaths.

Labor pledged to fund 300 extra hospital beds, 350 extra paramedics and ambulance officers, 300 more nurses and 100 extra doctors to help address ambulance ramping, and to release ramping figures “as soon as possible” each month.

Labor’s campaign and the health focus in particular are widely considered to have been a key factor in the swing on Saturday which swept the Liberals from power after just one term.

After the election was called for Labor on Saturday night, the union said that the result was a “pivotal moment where health becomes a priority”.

The union’s general secretary, Leah Watkins, said today that after years of worsening conditions for the public and patients and a concerted campaign for action, ambulance officers were buoyed by Labor’s win and expected it to act on its election commitments.

Watkins said some paramedics had resignation letters ready if the Marshall Government was re-elected.

“There’s a lightness in the air. We can all breathe again knowing help is on its way,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide.

Watkins would not say how much the union campaign had cost but was “happy to work out how much we spent on this public safety campaign”.

“Every single dollar is worth it if it prevents someone losing their life… we were prepared to spend whatever it took to make sure that the Liberal Party did not get back in, because our members know more than anyone how much is at stake and how much public safety is at risk,” she said.

Asked if the union would press the Malinauskas Labor government to act immediately on its concerns, Watkins said “Absolutely, yes.”

“We will absolutely continue campaigning and highlighting the issues, pushing for the newly elected government for emergency measures.

“It takes time to recruit people, we need some urgent action now… this has not disappeared overnight, the risk to patients, the risk to members is still there.”

But Watkins said the union would not commit to alerting the public to ambulance and hospital crisis issues to the same extent as before the election.

“We certainly will still highlight what’s happening within our capacity to do so, noting that we will be taking a step back from how much we were doing in the lead-up, in the last few weeks, because…this has taken an emotional and physical toll on the three of us at the office,” she said.

“This has taken a toll on us and our families and we need to get a bit of work-life balance back. So yes, we will still be highlighting it – not to the extent that we have been.”

The union last night highlighted another ramping alert issued across metropolitan Adelaide, warning the service’s operational capacity was “insufficient to maintain effective service delivery for high acuity cases”.

The alert, issued at 10.30pm, declared “OPSTAT White” across Adelaide, meaning the SA Ambulance Service’s “operational capacity, capability and/or resources are insufficient to maintain effective service delivery for high acuity cases”.


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