ACT News

Report accuses government of failing to investigate ACT Ambulance Service bullying claims

The ACT government failed to properly investigate allegations that a paramedic was bullied by senior ambulance staff, a report has found.

The findings of the territory's work safety regulator have prompted union calls for an external body to be brought in to help "break the protection ring" in the service's upper echelons.

WorkSafe ACT, in a report this month, criticised the government's response to a complaint made by an intensive care paramedic who alleged he was bullied by senior staff.

It found the Justice and Community Safety Directorate, through the ACT Ambulance Service, had failed to meet its duties under federal work health and safety laws by not investigating the complaint.

The agency has issued a formal improvement notice requiring the directorate to hold an independent investigation of the paramedic's allegations and review the way it handles complaints to ensure it is meeting federal standards.

The ACT has acted on the findings and a spokeswoman for Emergency Services Minister Simon Corbell has confirmed the investigation will take place.

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The spokeswoman said a wider review of "whole of service implications" stemming from the WorkSafe report is also being conducted.

Despite its criticisms, WorkSafe found reasonable steps had been taken by the directorate and ACTAS to ensure relevant policies and procedures were in place for the management of bullying allegations.

It also found evidence of proper training of management and workers to operate those policies.

The ACT opposition and the union representing ambulance officers, the Transport Workers Union, say the findings are evidence of cultural problems plaguing the service.

TWU official Ben Sweaney said inaction represented a breach of senior management's duty of care, and undermined the trust ambulance workers had in the complaint process.

"Appropriate authority must be provided to an external body to break the protection ring in senior management and hold managers accountable for their incompetence," Mr Sweaney said.

"The union warned the ACTAS in April 2013 that the concerns identified by the officer were serious and needed to be investigated to eliminate the potential risk to the officer's emotional well-being."

A broader review of ACTAS culture is set to start next month, six months after it was announced.

Opposition emergency services spokesman Brendan Smyth said Mr Corbell had failed in his responsibility to fix the cultural problems within ACTAS, despite previous warnings.

"It's certainly been allowed to go on for too long because the minister, Simon Corbell, simply isn't interested in creating a workplace that looks after his employees," he said.

"We know that because he was warned in November 2012 about the toxic culture [within ACTAS]. It took him until October 2013 to announce the review, and here we are in April 2014 and it hasn't even started."

WorkSafe ACT did not investigate the substance of the complaint itself. Copies of the improvement notice have been posted around Emergency Services Agency buildings.

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