Paramedics hit out at proposed changes to injured worker compensation scheme

Tammy Donovan’s job involved attending to car crash victims, but the South Australian paramedic had to stop when she herself became injured.

“We have to climb into cars to help patients, and then we have to get them out of those vehicles,” she said.

“People don’t tend to collapse in nice open spaces.

After undergoing surgery on her lower back Ms Donovan said she then injured her neck.

To make matters worse, she was involved in a crash while seeking treatment.

“I was on my way to rehab for my surgery, for my neck injury, and I was involved in a vehicle accident,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide’s Stacey Lee and Nikolai Beilharz.

“[I was] picked up by my own crew which was a bit embarrassing.”

Ms Donovan said she was now in limbo — being told she was too injured to return to even light duties, but not injured enough to access ongoing compensation.

Her employer, the South Australian Ambulance Service, has been contacted for comment.

Change makes things harder for people

But her personal plight is only part of Ms Donovan’s concerns.

She is worried that proposed changes to the ReturnToWorkSA scheme, including treating a worker’s injuries individually rather than cumulatively when determining compensation claims, would leave more workers in her boat.

“Changing part of this legislation’s just going to make things harder for people,” she said.

Unions, including the Ambulance Employees Association, have slammed the move.(ABC News)

Despite opposition from within its own Labor ranks, the SA government has defended its bill currently before parliament, saying the reform is necessary to protect the broader workforce from a higher tax.

“The reason why the bill was hurried into the parliament was because an absence of action on behalf of the government would have resulted in the ReturnToWork board increasing the WorkCover levy,” Premier Peter Malinauskas told ABC Radio Adelaide.

Party executive condemns own team

Attorney-General Kyam Maher conceded some workers would “be worse off”, but said the changes were crucial to ensuring “the scheme stayed viable”.

Several unions — including the one representing paramedics — disagreed, as did the state executive of Mr Maher’s own party which endorsed a motion condemning it.

“The ALP SA State Executive calls upon the state Labor Party to withdraw the [bill] and commit to genuine consultation with unions and workers to ensure that injured workers’ entitlements are fully funded,” it said.

The Ambulance Employees Association ran a vocal industrial campaign on the subject of ramping before the March state election and is not ruling out similar action.

A woman with brown hair wearing a gray top with the letters AEA on it
Paramedics union secretary Leah Watkins has not ruled out industrial action.(ABC News: Evelyn Manfield)

“[We’re] now negotiating with the government on this and they have made a genuine commitment to consider alternatives and to find a way forward to try and meet everyone’s needs,” union secretary Leah Watkins said.

For Ms Donovan, the proposed change is not so much a case of adding insult to injury, but of piling on more pain.

“To then turn around and hurt injured workers already hurting, it’s just another blow,” she said.


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