Paramedic draws fire for comments

Tumut paramedic John Larter is under fire from NSW Ambulance again, this time for comments he made in the Tumut and Adelong Times regarding former Tumut parish priest Father Brian Hassett.

In a March article, Mr Larter spoke in support of Father Brian, speaking as a private citizen and former Mayor – his position as a paramedic was not mentioned. However, it seems NSW Ambulance received an anonymous complaint about it.

A letter asking Mr Larter to respond was hand-delivered to him by a manager from Albury, a five hour round trip away. He said that was an extraordinary step, especially for a matter that does not involve his employer.

“It’s a nonsense complaint; it’s got nothing to do with NSW Ambulance, and this has come from the third in charge of the ambulance service,” he said.

“It just defies belief. Surely the correct thing to do is to ring me or send me an email, and really they should have said to the complainant, ‘your comment is duly noted, but Mr Larter’s comments had nothing to do NSW Ambulance and Mr Larter is free to say what he likes as long as it’s not ambulance related, so we respectfully ask you to refer any complaints directly to him.’

“The whole thing is just very upsetting really, it’s upsetting for my family, it’s upsetting for all this Father Brian stuff to be dragged up again, and on balance, what I said was not even worthy of a response. I said I abhor any act of sexual misconduct; I said I didn’t take any veracity away from the complainants, but that Father Brian was entitled to a presumption of innocence unless proven otherwise. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.”

Father Brian Hassett has been accused of inappropriate behaviour involving children.

John Larter is a frequent name in the local and state media, particularly pertaining to issues within the ambulance service. He spoke to the media in order to get his staff winter uniforms to cover them when they are called to areas such as Mt Selwyn and Cabramurra. He has criticized the move to a volunteer-based system at the Coolamon Ambulance Station. Most recently, he was quoted in an article published in this paper on Tuesday that detailed how Snowy Valleys residents were waiting between half an hour and an hour for ambulances that had been dispatched to other towns in the region, when the median state wait time for an ambulance is under eight minutes.

He believes this latest action is part of their unhappiness with his outspokenness.

“To be honest with you I think if I wasn’t as determined to bring about some change and some transparency and some honesty as to what’s going on in the organisation, I might have resigned,” he said.

“To put up with this over this many years, it’s just been endless.”

He also said that he speaks to the media about issues of concern that he experiences as a paramedic because nothing happens when he raises these issues through the proper channels. “They don’t respond,” he said.

“I’ve got correspondence there from the Chief Director that I’ve been waiting on a response for 12 months. “It shouldn’t take me ringing Alan Jones to elicit a response.”

However, a NSW Ambulance spokesperson said that Mr Larter had not been disciplined for his comments.

“The letter delivered to a NSW Ambulance staff member titled ‘Opportunity to
respond’ is not a disciplinary action,” they said.

“As outlined in the letter provided to the staff member NSW Ambulance received
complaints from members of the public in relation to comments made by an individual
who also happens to be staff member of NSW Ambulance. We are seeking
information from the staff member to assist us in replying to the complainant.”