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Union vents fury at ambulance boss's long mid-pandemic holiday

Politics

A paramedics union has slammed the acting Queensland Ambulance Service commissioner for taking holidays during a critical phase of the rapidly spreading Covid-19 pandemic.

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In a lengthy and highly critical letter to QAS acting commissioner, Craig Emery, the Australian Paramedics Association of Queensland pleads with their boss to “show your face” and “rally the troops” because the service is on its knees.

It comes as the State recorded 22,069 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, with 525 people in hospital, 30 of them in intensive care and eight on ventilators.

Emery has been on leave since December 13.

But Health Minister Yvette D’Ath on Wednesday defended Emery, saying it was completely inaccurate to accuse him of missing in action and that the reverse was true and he was briefed daily on the situation.

“Although he is on leave he has been involved in every briefing, he has been involved in meetings with stakeholders on a daily basis,” D’Ath said.

“He has been engaging with stakeholders, he has been at briefings and he has been involved in decision-making so it is just not accurate to say that he is missing in action.”

And D’Ath said the deputy, acting in Emery’s role during his leave, was more than capable and competent for the job.

The stoush, between the union and Emery, came to a head on Tuesday when the paramedics association published a letter on its website which it had emailed to Emery, telling him that the health service crisis was escalating and the Ambulance Service “you purport to lead is on its knees”.

The letter lists 10 concerns which it says the boss needs to know whilst on vacation including that paramedics have “been worked to the bone in full PPE in the middle of summer with excessive shift extensions”.

The union claims paramedics have been directed to transport unwell Covid patients to hospital in the front seat of an ambulance and asked to cancel scheduled leave and change rosters without notice.

The letter also claims there are PPE shortages at station level, placing paramedics at risk and causing anxiety.

“It is unbelievable that QAS has not planned for this despite the 18 months to do so.”

Also on Wednesday, the State’s chief health officer, Dr John Gerrard, laid bare the latest modelling which shows that people who are unvaccinated are nine times more likely to end up in hospital than those who are triple vaccinated if they contract Covid-19.

The number of people in ICU is up from 27 on Tuesday while the total number in hospital rose from 502 to 525.

“We now have enough data, from around 500 patients, to see some real trends in who is ending up in Queensland hospitals and the importance of boostered vaccination is very clear.

“If you are unvaccinated you are nine times more likely to end up in hospital than if you have received boostered vaccination, that is three doses of vaccination,” Dr Gerrard said.

D’Ath said that only two local government areas of the State have reported no positive cases since December 13.

Currently 88.02 per cent of Queenslanders are double dosed and 91.23 per cent have received one dose of the vaccine.

D’Ath also expressed concern about staffing issues and pressures on the aged care sector as the pandemic continues and said she would be raising this with the Commonwealth.

Case numbers of New South Wales and Victoria are also continuing to surge on a daily basis as the Omicron variant takes hold. Victoria recorded 40,127 new cases and 21 deaths on Wednesday and NSW had 34,759 new cases and 21 deaths, the most since early 2020.

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