ACT Emergency Services says firefighters were signed in to replace paramedics on Saturday due to a staff shortage

The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) confirmed it had deployed ACT Fire and Rescue personnel to replace paramedics over the weekend.

ESA commissioner Georgina Whelan said firefighters had been signed up to respond to ambulance calls on Saturday due to staffing shortages caused by a combination of factors including COVID-19.

Ms Whelan said the unit did not respond to any emergencies in the most serious category – or priority one emergencies – over the weekend, and only dealt with emergencies in priority category two , for which they had been trained.

But the United Firefighters Union said it was “concerning” that the ACT did not have enough staff to meet the demands of the list.

Firefighters deployed as paramedics under ‘business continuity plan’

ESA Commissioner Georgina Whelan said no firefighters had been sent to the emergency room in the most serious category.(ABC News: Penny McLintock)

Ms Whelan said the ESA was following its business continuity plan on Saturday when it became clear there were not enough paramedics to ensure this shift would be covered.

“I think it’s really important to say that from the start, throughout COVID-19, we have a series of business continuity plans in place to support us if an event like last Saturday night happens. was producing,” she said.

“And that being that a number of paramedics were ill, with a combination of COVID-19 and other seasonal type illnesses, and as a result, we triggered our business continuity plan which was to put, for caution, one more fire crew on the roster for that evening.”

She said the ACT had yet to see the “extreme” circumstances experienced by other jurisdictions where ambulance services were severely understaffed.

“We have had times when we have had a number of employees with COVID-19, and we have been able to replace those employees with their colleagues who have been willing and able to work overtime to supplement capacity,” he said. she declared. said.

She said the firefighters had not been signed up in the expectation that they would respond to serious emergencies.

Staffing issue ‘raises questions’ over funding

Greg McConville of the United Firefighters Union said firefighters had been trained in certain emergency response procedures, including advanced first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and advanced life support.

He said while their crew was trained and ready to help, the staffing issue raised questions about how the agency was managing through still unprecedented times due to COVID-19.

He said this was the first time this had happened due to an insufficient number of crews and was a concern.

Over the weekend, a woman died after the car she was driving crashed on Black Mountain Road.

It was the 10th traffic fatality in the ACT so far this year.

“The firefighters are ready to help the community and to help their colleagues at ACTAS (…) but it is worrying that their numbers have fallen below an acceptable minimum, so they have had to be helped by an additional fire truck,” he said.

Mr McConville said the firefighting unit had its own staffing issues, which only heightened his concerns about the capacity of the ACT emergency services as a whole.

“I suspect questions will be raised by representatives of probably all political parties as part of the Legislature’s budget process.”

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