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Saturday 10 June 2023 Dublin: 17°C File
Paramedics say new lunch arrangements 'show no regard for them'
“These rules would not be tolerated in any other section of the workforce.”

PARAMEDICS HAVE HIT out at new proposals for on-duty meal breaks.

A body representing ambulance drivers, NASRA, says that new proposals from the National Ambulance Service (NAS) will have a detrimental impact on drivers.

They say that the proposals include:

  • If a crew is tasked to a call in the second 15 minutes of their 30 minute break, they are deemed to have received their break
  • When the crew’s break is due the dispatcher will make them aware that they are on break which will be adjacent to their current location at that time. This in the first instance may be a hospital, ambulance base or other location where the crew have access to toilets and rest facilities that facilitate them to rest – such as a fast food restaurant or a filling station
  • Those crews who bring their lunch to work with them will have to have their lunch in their ambulance if they wish to avail of the structured break to eat

NASRA national chairman Michael Dixon said the acknowledgement that drivers are allowed a break is welcome, but the specifics are not.

“The restrictions and demands built into these proposals are at best unfair and at worst are demeaning to ambulance crews, most of whom are working 12 hour shifts.

“The notion in 2017 that staff lose their lunch break if it is interrupted by a call out, that staff are directed to fast food and rest stations for their meal breaks or that paramedics must eat in crowded, high-tech ambulances is draconian and unacceptable in this day and age. These rules would not be tolerated in any other section of the workforce.

‘We have examined rostering and rest time arrangements for paramedics in other EU countries and elsewhere, and nowhere are ambulance crews expected to meet the kind of draconian and unreasonable conditions now proposed by the NAS.

The norm in other jurisdictions is that the demands on frontline emergency staff are recognised by management and proper working arrangements are put in place to allow crews adequate breaks.

A statement from the HSE said that it would not address the comments as NASRA is not a recognised trade union.

“NASRA are not a recognised trade union and do not hold negotiation rights on behalf of NAS staff therefore it would not be appropriate to comment.

“The NAS can only engage with recognised trade unions such as SIPTU or Unite.”

Read: Brick thrown through window of ambulance parked at Dublin hospital

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