• Sat. May 21st, 2022

Women face structural barriers at Ambulance Victoria, says Human Rights Commission report

ByChad J. Johnson

Mar 30, 2022

Women and people from diverse backgrounds who work at Ambulance Victoria face attitudinal barriers that prevent them from moving up the ladder, according to a report by the state’s human rights watchdog.

The report says the attitude was partly due to “the continuing influence of the stereotype of paramedics as white, male, able-bodied, confident, stoic and breadwinners.”

This is the second installment of a review of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission in organizational culture.

Part one, published late last year, revealed an ingrained culture of harassment at Ambulance Victoria, with more than half of paramedics reporting experiences of bullying and almost a fifth reporting sexual harassment.

The second report found that men were overrepresented in leadership and leadership roles in the organization.

Across the workforce, the representation of women was slightly higher than that of men.

The commission found that Ambulance Victoria had a gender pay gap of 10.8%, which matched the pay gap in the Victorian public sector.

Ro Allen, Victoria’s equal opportunities and human rights commissioner, said Ambulance Victoria should develop a “robust complaints system” to ensure accountability in the future.

“No one is above this and everyone should be held accountable,” they said.

They said the report focused on issues of equality, respect and inclusion, and contained 19 recommendations – all accepted by Ambulance Victoria.

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In the first report, a dozen staff at Ambulance Victoria said they were victims of rape or attempted sexual assault.

Ambulance Victoria said it adopted all 24 recommendations listed in the commission’s report.

This week, the organization’s executive director of people and culture, Rebecca Hodges, tendered her resignation after more than six years in the role.

On Wednesday, Acting CEO of Ambulance Victoria Libby Murphy denied that the timing of Ms Hodges’ resignation was linked to the publication of the commission’s report.

Ms. Murphy said significant organizational cultural change took a long time.

“But over the next six months, we’re realizing that we need to focus on behaviors in the workplace and what we can do to empower people,” she said.

The commission will verify Ambulance Victoria’s response to its recommendations at the end of 2023.

Union calls Ambulance Victoria ‘toxic’

Brett Adie, secretary of Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria, said a “major overhaul” was needed at Ambulance Victoria.

‘Ambulance Victoria not only failed to protect staff but failed to listen to them when they reported damage,’ he said.

“As we said when the first report was released: A fundamental change in culture will require an equally significant change in senior leadership, and the workforce that has tolerated years of inaction deserves credit. .”

Since the commission’s first volume was published, the Victorian Ambulance Union has said it is aware of recent allegations of bullying and sexual offenses within the organisation.

Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill said the culture at Ambulance Victoria was “incredibly toxic”.

“We have people who are really hurt, sick, distressed, quitting their jobs as a result of what they’ve been through,” he said.

Code red accused of staff shortages

Meanwhile, staffing shortages have continued to strain the state’s ambulance service, with approximately 500 paramedics currently on leave after being infected or exposed to COVID.

Statewide, more than 2,000 healthcare workers are unavailable for work.

Ambulance Victoria was forced to call a code red for two hours on Tuesday evening, after high workloads and the hospital’s ramp-up led to just 1 per cent of the organization’s ambulance fleet being available to respond to calls, according to the Victorian Ambulance Union.

Acting Prime Minister James Merlino said staffing shortages were to blame.

“Across our health services, over 2,000 people were furloughed yesterday so the pandemic continues to be a challenge in Victoria and across the country.”

Shadow Health Minister Georgie Crozier blamed the crisis on the state government, saying it had underfunded and understaffed the sector for years.

“You can’t blame this crisis on COVID, it’s been taking years,” she said.

Albury Wodonga health care ‘in crisis’

Albury Wodonga Health said it was receiving more than 200 presentations a day, causing it to declare a code yellow.

Albury doctor Rebecca McGowan said the local health system was “in crisis”.

She said the system was catching up with patients who delayed seeking medical care during the height of the pandemic.

“They are now coming into the hospital system and to GPs – they are sicker and their medical needs require much more intensive care,” she said.

North East Health in Wangaratta also declared code yellow earlier this week.