Parliamentary Inquiry vindicates paramedic’s gripe with management

John Larter

Tumut paramedic John Larter couldn’t agree more with a NSW Parliament Upper House Report into bullying, harassment and discrimination in emergency services in which the NSW Ambulance service is revealed as the agency with the worst record for bullying.

The report reveals 29 per cent of paramedics and NSW Ambulance staff have experienced bullying and 34 per cent have witnessed bullying.

The report notes an Australian Paramedics Association (APA) survey of members reported 70 per cent of paramedics had experienced bullying, mostly by senior managers and supervisors.

APA NSW Secretary Steve Pearce said paramedics are still being subjected to bullying and harassment with terrifying consequences.

“There continues to be a serious problem within NSW Ambulance of bullying, harassment and discrimination and the report highlights the inability of NSW Ambulance to properly manage its bullying culture,” Mr Pearce said.

He said there has been an appalling lack of action since the Parliamentary Committee took its evidence last year with the promised Health and Wellbeing systems caught up in committees and NSW Health imposing conditions that cause unnecessary delays.”

Mr Pearce said the APA (NSW) had called for an independent committee overseeing bullying, harassment and discrimination within NSW Ambulance.

He said previous reviews of NSW Ambulance’s Professional Standards Unit had resulted in no changes.

“It just isn’t happening, nothing has changed on the ground and paramedics have had enough.”

Mr Larter over the years has raised numerous concerns with the service, often through this paper.

Cr Larter said that he and many others in the industry have been subject to bullying, harassment and discrimination at the hands of senior management.

“The NSW Ambulance Service almost needs a Royal Commission,” he said.

“People have been denied promotions and the opportunity to act in high duties, and people might get seconded on opportunities or things that hare seen as of benefit, and others don’t, there are transfers here and there. It stinks of an old boys’ network.”

Cr Larter described how those raising complaints are stonewalled by the service.

“It goes on all the time,” he said.

“People aren’t allowed to speak out about anything. Look at the amount of times I’ve raised safety concerns that have been vindicated, and each time I’ve got a letter of discipline. You are told you have breached the media policy.

“I wrote a 17 page letter to the chief executive in 2016 with about 20 documents attached which I perceived to be of interest, and I got a letter back from the deputy commissioner, David Dutton, saying he would look into the matters and respond to me, and that was in June 2016.”

He hasn’t heard back.

“I’ve been critical of the way they’ve done things; the governance, the communication. I put forward a letter to the parliamentary inquiry which outlined a number of concerns and failings.”

He said that injustice and bullying is widespread in the service.

“I’m getting emails from staff all over the state who feel they are being harassed and bullied,” he said.

“A relative of mine had to be medically discharged from NSW Ambulance because of the bullying and harassment. I fought vigorously to have their situation resolved, and the incompetence of senior managers in handling that case certainly ended the career of a 10-year paramedic. He had a letter from the chief executive acknowledging he had been bullied and harassed and they still argued the point.”

Cr Larter said he would resign as a paramedic if his bid to gain Liberal Party pre-selection for the seat of Wagga Wagga was successful.

“I would probably see if it was possible to stay on as a casual, because I think it would be important to keep in touch with the community, with the workforce,” he said.

He believes his 22 years of ambulance experience would be valuable in this job.