Paramedics across the Orana region are calling for community support after the NSW government slashed their death and disability insurance.
Health Services Union representatives and paramedics Ricalton Jones and Allison Moffitt said their cover has been cut by up to 75 per cent following a government review of the co-contribution insurance scheme.
Now, permanently-disabled paramedics will receive just 75 per cent income protection for two years after their injury.
Mr Jones said “everybody thinks twice about what we do” – one in five paramedics is injured at work every year – and it could put patients at risk.
“It’s a known fact that we work in a dangerous environment,” Ms Moffitt said.
“In times gone by, when we had a fair scheme and we knew we were going to be looked after it didn’t actually come into my thinking at all.
“But now…when we’re doing those awkward lifts, when we’re climbing into crashed cars, when we’re dealing with drug affected patients who are aggressive then maybe we think twice about what kind of position we’re going to put ourselves in because the government is not going to look after my family if I can’t work anymore.”
Changes to the paramedics’ insurance scheme came about after the cost to government hit 3.6 per cent of wages in 2015.
At that point it had been agreed government could review the scheme. But the new scheme provides less than one-third of the support provided to injured police officers.
Now paramedics across NSW are chalking up their ambulances in a campaign called Zero One – Code One: the code they need when they require urgent assistance.
The campaign has landed paramedics, and the HSU, before the Industrial Relations Commission.
The HSU is also urging people to sign a petition to have the slashed protections debated in state parliament.
“We normally look after the community in their time of need – it’s our time of need now,” Ms Moffitt said.
NSW Ambulance said the government values the work of paramedics and continues to fund an insurance scheme in addition to workers compensation benefits.
“The NSW Industrial Relations Commission made a new Death and Income Protection Award which commenced 20 August 2016, providing new income protection benefits and maintaining death benefits for NSW Paramedics,” NSW Ambulance said.
“The new income protection scheme provides new benefits to sick and injured paramedics who received nothing under the old scheme because their illness or injuries did not result in permanent total or partial disability.
“The previous lump sum benefits for disability have been replaced by a two-year income protection benefit to support staff during a period of recovery and rehabilitation before they return to work. This is not a lump sum or ‘payout’.
“The new scheme continues to provide benefits in the case of incidents at work and also those that occur outside the workplace. Paramedics will no longer have to contribute to the cost of the new scheme.
“Funding will continue for initiatives to improve the health and wellness of paramedics.
“As the chalking matter is currently before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, NSW Ambulance will not provide any further comment at this stage.”