In this month’s state budget, United Workers Union is calling on the Queensland Government to increase funding to the health sector to urgently address issues impacting the delivery of quality community care.
The failure to adequately invest in primary and secondary health services has shifted service provision to high-cost acute care settings and seen the hospital system struggle to keep up with demand.
Unions have been calling for significant health reforms for 18 months. United Workers Union, along with Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union, Together Union, and the Electrical Trades Union launched the Health Needs Urgent Care campaign in September 2021. The campaign has focussed on universal health care to give every Queenslander the best quality of life possible, and the dignity and independence that is the right of every person.
The campaign asserts that the public health system must be connected across all settings and sectors, including aged care and disability services, to ensure:
- timely access to health care regardless of where you live;
- proper prioritisation of health service delivery;
- the social determinants of health are addressed;
- every community has appropriate and culturally safe health services;
- all health services are provided free at point of service.
United Workers Union National Ambulance Coordinator Fiona Scalon said the forthcoming budget is the government’s opportunity to address the health crisis.
“There’s a severe shortfall of available ambulance officers out in the community, due to the health crisis,” Ms Scalon said.
“In addressing the health crisis, we strongly oppose outsourcing, privatisation and public money going to the profits of private health companies. Better health system design, enhancing connections between services, improving the management and prioritisation of health services, and new, fit-for-purpose health care funding frameworks is what is needed.
“In the short term, the upcoming budget must pledge additional staff on top of already committed staffing enhancements to allow workers to implement hospital diversion and bolster the day-to-day provision of services.
“As of the end of this financial year, there will be less than 50 new staff budgeted for with the government’s commitment to 535 ambulance staff enhancements over the term of this government.
“Government may work the numbers and tell the public this is enough, when on the ground this sees our members not getting their entitlements – not allowing staff to access breaks, and an inability to finish on time with regular excessive shift extensions that can result in a 15-hour shift.
“Or shifts going unfilled resulting in staff working alone when they would normally be part of a crew and those who are on shift having to carry the load the vacancies leave – this is prevalent across acute, patient transport and in operation centres who take our 000 calls. The system has no give in it and this needs to change.
“The continuing environment our ambulance members work in, facing ongoing delays at hospitals and pivoting to alternate triage and urgent care models, requires substantial support. This budget must factor in additional funding across roles – including paramedics, patient transport officers and emergency medical dispatchers, along with virtual triage and hospital alternatives.
“These staff must be permanent commitments. The recent surge funding to grapple with the pandemic, means there are excessive numbers of casual employees engaged. This is not a sustainable way to deliver a quality ambulance service. Staff need permanency and support in the first few months of their careers on the front line, to afford them the best opportunities in the service they provide to the Queensland public.
“Additional ambulance staff across the board in this budget would take pressure off workers and reduce the endless hours of ramping currently being reported by workers and members of the community.”
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