Emergency workers marched from Victoria Square to parliament in a union rally in pursuit of improved funding and an end to ambulance ramping. (Image Source: Jordan White)

By Jordan White | @JordanBWhite1

Hundreds of people gathered in Victoria Square for a union rally today, calling on the Marshall Government to better fund fire and ambulance services.

Emergency workers and unions — including the Ambulance Employees Association and United Firefighters Union —marched to Parliament House, rallying for better funding and an end to ambulance ramping.

On the steps of parliament, union members of the services chanted and shared anecdotes about how the lack of funding has impacted them.

United Firefighters Union state secretary, Max Adlam, said equipment was lacking, with fire trucks breaking down and “skeletonized” teams of engineers left to fix them.

Protestors gather before the rally, yielding signs reading “Under-funded under Marshall” and “SA Needs More Ambos”. (Image source: Jordan White)

Ms Adlam said the rally was for the safety of emergency service workers and the community, not pay rates.

“Today is not about self-interest, though there is nothing wrong with that. It is about the despair our members are feeling as they try to access the resources to do their job.

“We’re asking for the government to get its priorities right. Every year we go to the funerals of our comrades and we’re fed up. We are not prepared to deal with this anymore,” Ms Adlam said.

Rally members make their way toward Parliament House, led by union leaders. (Image source: Jordan White)

Transport Workers Union branch secretary, Ian Smith, said ambulance ramping is putting lives at risk.

“The health of South Australians is extremely important, and people are dying. They’re cutting services and people are dying because of it. The Marshall Government needs to do something about it,” he said. 

CEO and Secretary of the Australian Midwifery and Nursing Association of South Australia, Dr Elizabeth Debrars, said ramping impacts nurses and their ability to work too.

“[Nurses] are already overwhelmed and facing this on a daily basis isn’t helping.”

“We know there has been miscare. We know there have been deaths as a direct result of this and enough is enough. We need the Marshall Government to act, and we need them to act now,” she said. 

COVID marshals were present at the rally and participants could scan a QR code for contact tracing.

Ongoing trade disputes and ramping

The rally follows ongoing trade disputes between the government and emergency unions over equipment and staffing levels.

Ambulance ramping (keeping patients in ambulances outside when emergency departments are full) has been an ongoing issue across the state.

Metropolitan emergency departments have repeatedly been at capacity in past months, with ambulances ramped and waiting for beds. In March of 2021, the Ambulance Employee Association agreed to stop charging ambulance fees if patients were not seen in a timely manner.

Last month, InDaily reported the government conceded ramping is “unacceptable” and was exploring solutions for the “very serious” issue.

The State Government promised to employ “at least” 50 extra ambulance officers in a press release last Thursday but didn’t mention equipment.