Fatigue has been blamed for a crash involving two Queensland ambulances. The vehicles were involved in a minor nose-to-tail accident attending the same job at Kilcoy, northwest of Brisbane, about 2am on Wednesday with no injuries to paramedics or patients. But sources said the accident investigation report revealed both ambulance crews were exhausted from over-working and this had contributed to the crash.
“The paramedics had been without sleep for some 20 hours,” a Queensland Ambulance Service insider told The Sunday Mail. An exclusive Sunday Mail report this month revealed how the service was in crisis, with paramedics pleading for more staff and vehicles before it was too late. Ambulance officers expressed their anger at the new roster system, which had resulted in them working more shifts every week. Many said they were physically and mentally spent.
The accident happened only hours after the ambulance employees union threatened the State Government with industrial action if it did not address rostering and recruitment. “Fatigue was a huge part of the incident . . . the crews were extremely tired . . . although I am sure the QAS will say it is something else,” the insider said.
The Emergency Medical Service Protection Association, a group representing paramedics unhappy with their union, said there must be further investigation into the crash. “This raises serious concerns. It is a workplace health and safety issue which needs to be looked into,” association president Prebs Sathiaseelan said. Mr Sathiaseelan said management used “emotional blackmail” on employees about to go off duty, asking them to respond to an emergency case.
State Opposition emergency services spokesman Ted Malone said the incident highlighted how the Government was prepared to risk the lives of ambulance officers and the public. “Peter Beattie has had his hands in our pockets grabbing his ambulance tax, which he promised would give us the world’s best service,” Mr Malone said. “All he’s done is waste our money and run the service down to the point where ambos are forced to work 20 hours without sleep. How dangerous is that? Bullying, harassing, running staff into the ground to the point where they’re exhausted.”
By Darrell Giles