St John Ambulance service under fire

South West MP Adele Farina wants the St John Ambulance chief executive officer Tony Ahern to resign after reports of bullying and a toxic culture at St John.

South West MP Adele Farina wants the St John Ambulance chief executive officer Tony Ahern to resign after reports of bullying and a toxic culture at St John.

REPORTS found bullying and a toxic culture exists at the St John Ambulance service, according to an Independent Oversight Panel and Phoenix Australia.

In a report, the Independent Oversight Panel chairman Dr Neale Fong said the ambulance service, paramedics and volunteers were vulnerable to developing post traumatic stress disorder during their career.

Over an 18 month period five paramedics and volunteers died by suicide and two more paramedics died by suicide earlier this year.

Dr Fong said to move forward all parties needed to address the issues related to organisational culture and health and well-being.

“The health and well-being of all employees and volunteers is too important to not to continue to address these sensitive issues,” he said.

South West MP Adele Farina called on the St John Ambulance chief executive officer Tony Ahern to resign and said he had ignored bullying complaints which aided the toxic culture and dysfunction. 

Ms Farina said the reports confirm what paramedics and volunteers had told her about the systemic, structural and resourcing problems within St John Ambulance.

“There is no question additional paid paramedics at country sites would provide better roster coverage and fatigue management, and would improve clinical safety and quality,” she said. 

“Expectations placed on country paramedics to do overtime, come in from days off to cover shifts or accept immediate call back are unreasonable and are having a cumulative negative impact on the health of country paramedics in addition to raising serious safety and quality concerns.” 

Mr Ahern said he was motivated to create the best possible workplace St John Ambulance staff and volunteers by serving the community with a world class ambulance service.

He said the reports provided St John opportunities to improve its support for volunteers in the regions and he was pleased to say this work had begun. 

“Among the recommendations were that St John provided initial and ongoing training for paramedics who work with volunteers, and that had already commenced,” he said.  

Earlier this year an ex-volunteer with St John Ambulance in the South West contacted the Mail and said the service could not be resolved until a restructure of emergency services took place.

The volunteer who wanted to remain anonymous said the only way forward was to have paramedic services inline with the fire service under the banner of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

“I raised the matter with senior managers, regional managers and even went to [then Minister] Kim Hames, asking why the system allows for such discrepancies within the training given,” they said.

For those needing support call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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