Today’s correspondent has questions regarding current recruiting by St John Ambulance (WA). St John (WA) offers a number of entry pathways. They are (https://changelives.stjohnwa.com.au/changelives/employment)
- Student ambulance officer
- Paramedical Science degree graduate entry and
- Registered nurse and allied health professional pathway
St John (WA) is currently hiring “student ambulance officers” (https://changelives.stjohnwa.com.au/changelives/employment, open to 1 April 2019).
My correspondent is already a registered paramedic but they have been told they are ineligible to apply for this position which, amongst other things, requires candidates to complete the paramedicine degree at Curtin University. My correspondent has been told that if they were ‘eligible I would be required to complete another bachelor degree in paramedicine’. I’m not sure but I would suspect Curtin University would be reluctant to allow someone to enrol if they already had an equivalent degree, but we don’t need to explore that further.
The problem for my correspondent is that St John are advertising for people to join their student program, rather than their program for paramedicine graduates. My correspondent is a registered paramedic but cannot apply. My correspondent says:
The issue I see is that there is a state-wide shortage of qualified and paid paramedics in one of, if not, the largest state and/or territory, less an entire nation in the world. This has previously been identified by the Western Australian Department of Health and Western Australian Country Health Service (WACHS).
Personally, I have travelled and worked in and around remote Western Australia for private companies who are predominantly conducting mining operations and can verify there is a lack of registered-qualified-paid paramedics and volunteer ambulance personnel in rural localities where one would expect there to be.
So, how can the state of Western Australia allow a significant disparity of health workers across the state, which is not merely due to town numbers etc.; and, whilst at the same time – I a well-qualified registered health professional am unable to get work in which the state I was born and grew up in, which I studied my degree in?
The first point is that the State of Western Australia doesn’t operate an ambulance service, it contracts St John Ambulance Australia (WA) to provide ambulance services in that state. And it is up to St John to decide what its recruitment needs are and how it is going to meet its obligations to the state and the community. It does not mean that St John has to employ every graduate paramedic who asks for a job. St John (like any organisation) has a budget and resources and has to choose how to allocate those resources. One may say that a state the size of WA should have more paramedics but there are only limited resources in the state’s budget and no doubt limited resources in the budget of St John.
How governments allocate their budget is not a legal question – that is you cannot sue a government and argue that they should put more resources into paramedics and therefore less into some other area of government operations (see Civil Liability Act 2002 (WA) s 5W). There is no legal argument that the State of WA should fund St John to provide more paramedics than it currently does.
Equally St John has to use its resources to meet the demands on its services. That is not only employing paramedics but all the people that support the service and allocating those resources as they see fit and in accordance with the demands of any agreement with the State. Some may argue (some have argued) for example that St John should not use volunteers (see The role of volunteers and others in ambulance services with upcoming paramedic registration (June 10, 2018)). But there is no law that says that they cannot. They have to work out how they will serve the community with the resources that they have. Others may think that other decisions would be better but ultimately it is up to St John subject to terms of its agreement with the state of WA (see Paramedic Service levels in WA (February 22, 2018) for a link to the Services Agreement Between State of Western Australia and St John Ambulance Western Australia Limited (1 July 2015 to 30 June 2018) and for a discussion on staffing levels).
St john have a number of entries to a career as a paramedic. Today they are advertising for people to come in and join their ‘student ambulance officer’ program. No doubt there are reasons behind that decision and reflections on how that helps their workforce planning. The fact that there are people like my correspondent, that is registered paramedics who would like to work with St John (WA), does not mean that St John has to employ them as well as, or instead of students.
This simply is not a legal question. It is a policy question. The State of WA choses to contract with St John (WA) to provide ambulance services. St John has to meet its contractual obligations but how it does that is up to St John. How they manage their workforce is also a matter for them. If anyone thinks St John, or the government are doing a bad job in that regard their recourse is to take it up with the Minister and, ultimately, run for office. There is no legal remedy to be pursued. That St John wants to employ people as student paramedics rather than graduate paramedics does not give rise to any legal rights in, or obligations to, graduate paramedics who would like a job.