Paramedics' death and disability entitlements slashed

PROTESTING CUTS: Bega Ambulance Station's Rhys Tamatea and Paul Beard show one of the signs on the station's vehicles. Picture: Albert McKnight

PROTESTING CUTS: Bega Ambulance Station's Rhys Tamatea and Paul Beard show one of the signs on the station's vehicles. Picture: Albert McKnight

NSW paramedics have had their disability entitlements cut by about 80 per cent.

The NSW Paramedic Death and Disability Award was introduced in 2008 to provide paramedics and their families financial protection in the case of serious injury or death.

But the state government has reduced the disability entitlements under this award from a maximum of $700,000 to about $120,000. 

Figures show one in five NSW paramedics are injured while on the job, according to the Health Services Union. 

“If you sustain an injury then that’s it for the rest of your life,” station officer at Bega Ambulance Station Rhys Tamatea said. 

“You’ll be paid for a two-year period and that’s it.

“When we first heard about the plan, we couldn’t believe it.” 

The change, instigated in August, has led some paramedics to write chalk signs on their vehicles, such as “NSW paramedics: most trusted, least protected thanks to Mike Baird”. 

Mr Tamatea said the main injuries paramedics suffered were back injuries, but there were also high numbers of assault. 

While new stretchers have been rolled out to reduce rates of back injuries, he said there will still be cases where they have to lift people out of situations where their personal safety was at risk. 

Other dangers included dealing with drug and alcohol-fuelled aggression, being hit by a vehicle while at a car crash as well as developing post traumatic stress disorder. PTSD treatment was included in the earlier award, but the new plan only supports it for two years. 

“People always say to me ‘you must see some terrible things’ and yeah, we do and you can’t unsee it – it’s with you forever,” Bega station paramedic Paul Beard said. 

He was worried the changes to the award would scare off young people from becoming paramedics.

Paramedics are calling for the same entitlements as police officers, who receive about $430,000 under their death and disability scheme.

Mr Tamatea said paramedics have requested an interview with Member for Bega Andrew Constance to discuss the issue. 

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