When this post first appeared, I said: “The other source of an obligation may be in the agreement between St John Ambulance (WA) and the Western Australia government, but I do not have access to that agreement so can’t comment on what it may, or may not, say.”
I have now been provided with a copy of that agreement and found it online – Services Agreement Between State of Western Australia and St John Ambulance Western Australia Limited (1 July 2015 to 30 June 2018). The post was amended on 22 February 2018 to include discussion of this agreement.
… works in a large regional city in Western Australia – population >30,000. We work under the Volunteer/Paramedic module where volunteers are tiered into level 1 and level 2 with in house training, not accredited qualifications. They are signed off and permitted to then form an ambulance crew with a Paramedic.
Are there restraints around how busy areas are (jobs completed per year) and the appropriateness of utilizing volunteers instead of full career staff?
There is no general legal principle that would set a minimum service level. (And consider the number of volunteer fire and ambulance companies in the United States including major cities. If there was a common law rule that could be applied to limit those services I’m sure it would have been found and used there).
The only relevant industrial agreement that I can find online is the St John Ambulance Australia (Western Australia) Inc Ambulance Officers’/Paramedics Enterprise Agreement 2011-2014. I assume that even though it was meant to end in 2014, it still governs employment in WA. If it doesn’t I’m sure someone will let me know.
The 2014 Agreement only says this with respect to volunteers:
18.17 A Country Training Skills Allowance, as set out in Appendix 2, will be paid to qualified Ambulance Paramedics working in country locations, who provide ambulance tutoring/training skills to volunteers whilst working together as a paid/volunteer crew.
26 Where employees are required to work with volunteers, St John Ambulance will, as soon as practicable, ensure that volunteers receive volunteer driver training.
At the Broome and Headland Sub Centres ([34.1] and [35.1]):
(c) Employees on standby shall:…
(iii) be available to immediately commence work if volunteer Ambulance Officers are not available for that period.
(g) Employees are required to support, work with and encourage the recruitment and training of volunteer Ambulance Officers. Employees are required to conduct up to a total of 42 hours of training per calendar year, in consultation with CPHC payment of these hours are accounted for in accordance with clause 34.3(g) (Broome/Hedland Allowance).
(j) If additional ambulances are required they will be staffed by available off duty employees when volunteer Ambulance Officers are not available. Payments of these additional hours are accounted for in accordance with clause 34.3(g) (Broome/Hedland Allowance).
And at Headland ([35.1(h)])
If additional ambulances are required they will be staffed by available off duty employees when volunteer Ambulance Officers are not available. Payments of these additional hours are accounted for in accordance with clause 35.3(g)
And at [35.2]:
(a) Employees will work a roster that will be determined by agreement between those employee’s employed in the Sub-Centre, subject to the following:…
(ii) 1 employee and 1 volunteer Ambulance Officer will comprise a standard crew;
(iii) when a volunteer Ambulance Officer is not available a second employee must be on stand-by; …
That is there is nothing in the Enterprise Agreement to say that stations with a certain workload must be staffed only by employed paramedics.
The Services Agreement Between State of Western Australia and St John Ambulance Western Australia Limited (1 July 2015 to 30 June 2018) does provide for service standards in country Western Australia, that is ‘all areas in the Service Area outside of the Metropolitan Perth Area’ ([1.1]). The staffing of ambulance stations is affected by the number of calls received for that station in the preceding financial year but regardless of whether it is volunteer station or a career paramedic station, volunteers are integral to the staffing levels. The staffing required for country sub-centres is shown in the table below:
- COUNTRY SUB CENTRE MODEL
|Category Crew||Cases in previous Financial Year||Model||Paramedic Staff||Crew|
8 Paramedics working a 2:2:4 roster and 1 relief officer.
|2 ambulances with a Crew of one Paramedic and one Volunteer 24 hours per day.|
|2000 – 3000||Career Paramedic.||7 Paramedics.
4 Paramedics working a 2:2:4 rosters, 2 Paramedics working 4 days on, 4 day offs 11 hour per day roster, and 1 relief officer
|1 ambulance with a Paramedic Crew of one Paramedic and one Volunteer Ambulance Officer 24 hours per day.
1 ambulance with a Crew of one Paramedic and one. Volunteer Ambulance Officer working 12 hours per day.
|1500 – 2000
|Career Paramedic.||4 Paramedics.
4 Paramedics working a 2:2:4 rosters.
|1 ambulance with Crew of one Paramedic and one Volunteer Ambulance Officer 24 hours per day.|
|Career Paramedic.||2 Paramedics.
2 Paramedics working 4 days on 4 days off 12 hour day roster.
|1 ambulance with a Crew of one Paramedic and one Volunteer Ambulance Officer working 12 hours per day.
1 ambulance with a Crew of two Volunteer Ambulance Officers working 12 hours per day.
|250 -1000||Community Paramedic.
|Support of a Community Paramedic.
|1 ambulance with a Crew of two Volunteer Ambulance
Officers working 24
hours per day.
|Category 6||0-250||Volunteer||1 ambulance with a
Crew of two
Officers working 24
hours per day.
What follows is that in all country centres, volunteers are essential to the provision of ambulance services in Western Australia. It may be that the community would be better served with more, or more career paramedics, but governments have to allocate resources. Employing more paramedics means less money for other services. The allocation of the budget, the choice between how much to spend on all the demands on government, is a political and not a legal decision. It follows that a person cannot sue a government over the choices it makes (Graham Barclay Oysters v Ryan  HCA 54; Civil Liability Act 2002 (WA) s 5W). How a government allocates resources is non-justiciable ie you can’t review that decision in court. If you don’t like the governments decisions, the solution is to lobby your local member or to run for election and become the local member.
There are no legal restraints around how busy areas are staffed, and the appropriateness of utilising volunteers instead of full time career staff. These matters are inherently political and involve the allocation of resources to meet all the demands on government. These decisions are matters for the legislative and executive arms of government and cannot be reviewed in court.
There is no Ambulance Act in WA. However, there are six providers that are registered with the WA Department of Health and Communities.
SJAWA Inc, a limited liability company (it is no longer an Incorporated Association as per Act) has a perceptual contract to provide emergency medical services. Tbe former St John Ambulance Association WA Commandry relied beavilily on volunteer staffing from the “Brigade”.
In some areas such as Derby, the ambulance is Health Deparyment operated out of the District Hospital. In Marble Bar and Nullagine the local clinic nurse operates as the emergency ambulance as well as assistance from RFDS. Indigenous communities often have thier own under Land Council Health Boards.
The only referance to standards was under the repealed Motor Car Act was “registered colours” of ambulances which a vehicle had to be white with black markings.
Until an Ambulance Services Act is introduced i feel there will not be a gazzetted level of service minimum requirements. In the 70s the only requirement was a B class drivers licence and current first aid certificate.
I am recalling this from memory and unable to referance sections of the repelked Acts or former SJAA SJAB WA internal requlations of the periods as stated.
Save that I’ve quoted the current agreement wth St John and the service standards that are in that agreement. So there are minimum service levels
Michael, use of the term ‘available’ is interesting and applied broadly. I’d appreciate your thoughts on this as it seems to lead to ambiguity in that whilst on duty staff are clearly available so to are on call staff whom are (as per your article & various awards/EBA’s) required to be ‘available’ also. Alas Ambulance seem to choose to ignore on call staff at their own unchallenged disgression.
‘Available’ means ‘able to be used or obtained; at someone’s disposal.’. It doesn’t mean ‘must be used’. Ambulance coord can chose not to call the available crew if for whatever reason they are relying on volunteers or crews from another station (subject to the agreement quoted in that post that provides that there must be one career paramedics on all crews for category 1-4 stations).
This comment was received by email:
“Regarding the country sub centre model under the service agreement between state of WA and SJA WA. I am personally aware of multiple sub centres who are functioning as a category 5- Community Paramedic and a crew made up of Volunteer/Volunteer. These sub centres have had a case load in the last financial year well above a category 5, some even coming close to a category 1. Even though that is the case they are still running under a category 5. Are SJA in anyway required to implement Paramedics into this sub centre as per the current agreement? Or do you suspect there is some kind of agreement that implementing Paramedics as per the agreement is dependent on availability/finance. Once again. thank you for your point of view – it is very interesting.”
Cl 2.3 of the agreement says ‘In providing the Services the Provider must comply with the Service Standards as set out in Schedule 4’. Annual reports must be provided by 30 November each year (cl 3.10(j)). There is nothing to limit the obligation. If the station is receiving calls at or above the rates listed in the service standard, they are to be staffed in accordance with that service standard.