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Meeting for the SOC JCC
10:00 till 12:15:30 on September 17th 2021
Lee Waller, Troy Bates, Justin Brennan and Kam Phagura
There were no AEAWA apologies
The meeting opened with the recent departure of Julian Smith from the SOC who had worked for SJA for 36 years, and to wish him well in his retirement from the organisation.
SOC General Updates
Discussions took place regarding the staffing within the SOC. Approval from the directors had been given for an additional two 24/7 Clinical Support Paramedics (at this stage one placed at SOC and the other at the Wangara HUB). The separation of metro and country has been discussed from an organisational point, but as yet no final decision had been made. If a separation did occur this may mean (hypothetically) if country was run from Wangara, then officers who live south of the river may not be able to work on country dispatch and this will lead to skill erosion.
SJA – The implementation of a country and metro 24/7 manager in the SOC would lead to many issues being sorted out immediately rather than waiting for responses during office hours. There is more work being done on this implementation and SOC staff will be made aware of those once available.
SJA – The Operational Support Officer role was discussed, and SJA are reviewing the data (i.e days v nights, and data from pre and post the OSO’s commencing employment). This will effectively show how many they may need. Currently there are 5 per shift and there may only be a need for 3. This would mean that the OSO’s would be given the opportunity to apply for a Communications Officer role. However, they would not need to go through the entire process again (as they have done most of the Communication Officers application process already).
For the OSO’s that do not want to apply are on 12-month contracts, but this does not effectively mean they will have to leave, as the official numbers required have not been set. SJA DO NOT want to see reduced staff levels, especially as the recent data shows a 12% increase in triple-0 calls over the last 2 months.
The numbers currently show that the SOC is 7 employees short (under established staffing levels) and an additional 17 Communications Officers will be employed soon.
These numbers are still below the expected staffing levels set within the Joyce Inquiry of 2010 and the implementation report. However, we do welcome additional staffing in the room.
The new chairs in the SOC are in place and are the newer improved model to what was originally discussed. Feedback so far has been positive. Regarding the headsets it is still SJAs preference that they are worn whilst radio dispatching to reduce any acoustic incidents. Some employees have stated although the microphones currently in use are great (as they are not being injured), they believe that they are missing vital radio transmissions as they can not hear. This is mainly due to the volume of the other radio overriding theirs. SJA have stated that they will improve the devices if there is a need.
Staff are urged to contact Wil directly or use the FMS to lodge the fault so that these issues are identified and can be fixed sooner. Some members are stating that the feedback issues are still occurring. SJA will review this.
The new CAD update has been implemented and feedback is still being sourced.
AEAWA – Members have stated that there is an issue performing welfare checks on patients who have been waiting for an ambulance for hours. The current system is to have someone call them back. At the moment this is only occurring between noon and midnight. The additional two paramedics slated to work alongside STT have not been released off the road due to the poor staffing levels of paramedics. In essence, if a call-taker has 10 banked up triple-0 calls on their screen, how can they call and do a welfare check. The system DOES NOT have the capacity to safely provide this service.
Currently the RTMs have access to main road cameras as a trial. This has assisted in numerous calls; correctly determining the correct location of an incident to finding a patient who does not know their location. Our members in the SOC would like to see this on more computers to assist them in finding locations. SJA will contact main roads with the positive feedback and see if more access can be given.
Sel Call Failures
SJA provided feedback to numerous failures resulting in delayed ambulance responses, particularly in the Southwest. The outcome was that Radio Dispatchers are Sel Calling depots when there are no crews in the depot, hence they can not answer it. This response was not particularly well received and the AEAWA viewed this as unsatisfactory. Believing it was a ‘cop out’. SJA stated they will log the issues and review where the crews are when they have been sel called to see where the issues are. SOC personnel were adamant that it is a system failure, and SJA need to fix it.
Country Dial Out
Many times, the SOC contacts a crew and for what ever reason the call is not answered. The crew sees the call as missed but have no idea who has called them. Our members asked for the SOC number not to be recorded as a generic number, so crews can contact the person who is trying to contact them. SJA stated numerous works are going on in the background and that this is being sorted. The AEAWA advised that this was listed as a JCC agenda item back in February 2020, as still no resolution has taken place.
Request to Pause the Audit Feedback Process
Members had stated with the workload being astronomically high, and minimum staffing levels being an issue, it was quite unfair to then get hit with a bad audit. SJA (although not advising employees) agreed with this, and the audit process was actually stopped for 2-3 months. It is now currently back in full swing, and employees should see these audits soon. SJA also stated that the new Shift Development Officers (once implemented) will perform the feedback process. So now members should obtain their feedback via their peers and NOT from individuals who have never performed the role before. October 17 is the first ‘conversion’ course for these officers.
Policy that Overwrites the Requirements of ProQA in Urgent Circumstances
Much discussion occurred around surge capacity within ProQA. From answering calls normally to the removal of Post-Dispatch Instructions when the workload becomes exceptionally high. Although it was acknowledged that the removal of certain PDIs do save a few minutes, with the call volume constantly increasing it is not enough to answer the banked-up calls. The Emergency Disconnect Protocol was talked about, however, SJA have stated this is only to be used during a major disaster and NOT for increased workloads.
Other systems in place (particularly in London), were the structured call-taking questions are aligned to available resources and call volumes was discussed. In essence when workload is extreme, many questions are limited so that the call-taker can disconnect and answer another call. SJA will review these systems and see if there is a place for that here.
It was also noted that Telstra are continually calling the Duty Manager saying they CAN NOT get emergency calls to be answered from the SOC.
Clarification on the Minimum Requirement for Dispatchers on Radio
There needs to be 6 radio Dispatchers and 10 call-takers per shift. However, the call-takers are not just call-takers, they include those who perform other roles such as the EDO etc. Once again this is NOT what was stipulated in the Joyce Inquiry Implementation Report and call-takers logged into the system should just be call taking. SJA have stated they are about to implement another radio school and that Black and Red shifts will be approached first due to the reduced numbers on those shifts.
The Wearing of Headsets Whilst on Radio Dispatch
This was discussed previously in these minutes, and an acknowledgment of the current system not being perfect, it is still the belief of the AEAWA that headsets are not worn at all on Radio. YOU ARE NOT COVERED if you have an injury and the problem HAS NOT been rectified, as they still do not know where the issues in the radio network are.
Shift Preference List Updated
This was updated 30th August 2021 and is currently on the intranet, an example copy was shown at the meeting.
Confirm Defence Service Leave is Updated in the Leave Guide on Connect
As this was in numerous documents the information was conflicted and a link was not active, this has now been fixed and is currently live on the intranet.
New Agenda Items
SOC Transformation Update
Mostly covered earlier, the country and metro mangers were discussed. However, SJA will inform staff of these changes at a later date, as certain items still need reviewing.
Wangara HUB Closures
Some members have contacted the AEAWA stating they have had 90 minutes notice to go to the SOC instead of Wangara, this has created issues in getting to work on time. On certain occasions staff at the HUB have been told to drive to Belmont after they have commenced shift due to reduced staffing. The AEAWA believe this is ironic as the organisation have now lost 2 or 3 employees for 45 minutes whilst they drive to the SOC. The AEAWA have asked for a review on when the HUB has been closed and for what reason. If the HUB is to be closed there needs to be a set criteria of when this should occur, and the correct processes followed. SJA agreed and will review a process for closure.
Standardisation of Shift Protocols
Members have raised concerns of the disparity that occurs across shifts. There appears to be no consistency, and this can be quite stressful for those working overtime on various shift colours and members who predominantly work set days and work across all shifts. SJA acknowledge this and stated this was evident post the introduction of the OSO’s as they were assigned different tasks dependent on were they worked. SJA are looking to initiate set criteria so that this does not occur and will implement this soon.
SJA have stipulated that the 2-day CEP will be aligned to the current paramedic program. A one day face-to-face and an in-house day. This is due to the issues with aligning all officers to a 4-week program, which is increasingly harder to manage. Especially with the workload as high as it is and taking officers from the SOC/Wangara out of circulation to attend the training program. This places further pressures on employees left in the system. As the on-line program develops SJA will take consultation on set items within the CEP online program. There are specific teachings that are required to be taught, however, there would be the ability to place in employee requested content in the future.
Undercover Parking at Belmont (Night Shift for SOC)
It was identified there is limited number of safe parking bays available for SOC employees, especially during times where the HUB has been closed. Recent events have occurred where members of the public are walking through the car park throughout the night. This combined with the limited lighting in the area, has made the area extremely unsafe of employees. Recently numerous employees had parked in the CEO’s parking bay, and this led to a SOC email advising staff not to park there. Although this area is not identified with a CEO sign (it forms part of the red parking bays). There was an acknowledgement that this bay needs to be vacated as the CEO may come in after office hours. This led to a discussion on the reason why this had occurred; there were NO other bays to park in.
The AEAWA believe that employee safety is paramount. In one case a SOC employee had to stay at work longer due to no staff available to relieve the position. SJA presented data on the bays available at these particular times and that there were bays available.
It was ironic that other forms of data has been requested for months but this data can be supplied in days. It was also noted that it is not just SOC staff that park in the locked undercover carpark area, and in some cases, vehicles had been left in there for a number of days. If there are NO safe parking bays available (and many staff are ending their shifts post-midnight), what is the safe option? SJA will find a solution.
In the meantime, if there are NO undercover bays available and you need to park outside in an area that has already been deemed unsafe (on numerous occasions), then contact the Duty Manager to arrange an escort until a solution is found.
SOC Officers and Senior Positions
To be discussed at the next SOC JCC
Enterprise Agreement Items – Not discussed at this meeting as none were listed.
Next SOC JCC is scheduled for Thursday 9th December 2021 (14:00-16:00). If you would like to list an agenda item for discussion, please contact the AEAWA via email [email protected] or speak with your shift delegate.
New Chairs for the SOC – Members have stated for quite a while that the SOC chairs have past their use by dates. They have not been replaced for a long time and are used 24/7 and have exceeded their lifespan.
SJA discussed the roll out of new chairs for SOC staff at a significant costing ($70,000) to replace the old chairs in the room. Rollout of these new chairs should occur shortly (this was initially raised in the February JCC), with a hope from SJA management that the chairs should arrive within the next few weeks.
Members want to know when the new headsets are arriving? – Members, tired of receiving constant audio feedback through the antiquated headsets supplied by SJA are asking when safer equipment is arriving. This will significantly reduce employee stress, workplace injuries and time of work for our members in the room.
SJA will report back to employees when this equipment will arrive.
Feedback relating to SOC employee audits – The auditing process is different per officer, there are too many inconsistencies. The auditing process is not performed by peers, SOC officers are audited by office staff who are trained to audit calls, however, they have not performed any of the roles they are auditing. The process is regarded by SOC employees as unsupportive, un-educational and a punitive tool used by management.
SJA state they will change this to make it a fairer process, and will see if the ‘older’ model of auditing (performed by peers) can be re-instated. SJA still believe the audit process is fair.
Leave exchange inconsistencies – Leave exchanges have been denied, whilst others have been approved, the policy appears to be applied differently across the board.
SJA stated the leave policy has been followed, with the minimum of 6 weeks’ notice needs to be given to change leave blocks. They did however state that if an officer needs to change leave as a matter of priority then they should be emailed to assist this change to occur were reasonable.
The shockingly low number of employees in the SOC – Members are concerned of the lack of staffing levels in SOC, this is leading to poor morale and employee burnout. There are multiple vacancies not being filled, and all shifts are experiencing over 400 missed triple-0 calls. Call takers constantly seeing 8 plus triple-0 calls on the screen not being answered.
SJA stated there is a current business case at Director level for sign off for 20 new officers. However, SJA are mindful of staff being subjected to ‘mentor fatigue’; meaning at such busy times and new staff already being mentored they are mindful that staff have been extremely busy and a new run of mentoring will soon occur.
The AEAWA stated that 20 new call takers is just the ‘start’, the Joyce Inquiry into the Ambulance Service identified the need for 14 call takers (with the workload we had ten years ago), we regularly run shifts with half this amount. Currently SJA are in the process of employing 17 new SOC employees.
Poor employee morale – Members believe that high call volumes, low staffing levels and a lack of support are the cause of low morale in the room. Members state the workforce is at breaking point and the new round of audits are pushing staff to high stress levels.
SJA believe some of the previous mentioned outcomes to issues raised in this meeting will certainly help to reduce employee concerns.
The AEAWA agreed ‘as long as SJA actually follow through’.
Inconsistencies with radio dispatch hours – The allocation of dispatch hours was raised again to state the allocation is not equitable and that officers on less than full time hours were receiving more radio hours than others especially on shift crossovers as the DM’s were shift specific with rostering hours.
The AEAWA advised that this was an issue as some officers are being disadvantaged and asked why a non-manager e.g. Country Support could not do the allocations which makes it easier for officers to approach and discuss as a peer decision. Some shift/officers are happy but others are not.
SJA stated they would look at the situation as they were not aware there was an issue.
Permanent positions at the SOC and the Wangara Hub – Members were asking about the creation of permanent positions at Wangara as well as Belmont.
SJA responded that the organisation was looking at increasing clinical presence and that open discussion in regard to location was holding back a decision to make permanent positions for SOC members. At this stage the current arrangement will remain until outcomes on staffing and other attributes were finalised.
HLMs organising one for one swaps at hospitals whilst crews were on the ramp – The AEAWA raised the issue with HLM’s liaising with the ANC when a 1 for 1 swap/transfer was called in by the particular hospital. SOC radio operators are constantly under pressure to clear P1 & P2 calls in the community and without consultation the crew who is ramped suddenly appears on a transfer to another Hospital which has been arranged through the HLM and the ANC; leaving community calls of P1 & P2 still waiting. This should not be occurring as it DOES NOT free a crew from the ramp but simply incurs a further ramping situation elsewhere and increases waiting times in the community.
SJA replied that the HLM are to communicate through the RTM or DM as they are managers and not ANC’s. The preference is to attend to community calls before IHT’s unless the transfer is urgent and is going to a definitive location i.e. not through the ED department where it is likely to have a ramping effect on the crew.
The AEAWA asked SJA to circulate this instruction to Metro to pass to the HLM’s and Communications Centre staff to ensure everyone is on the same page.
SOP for changing volumes for Radio Dispatchers – A SOP will be written on changing volumes on the radio for dispatchers to follow to reduce injuries. There have been too many acoustic shock events in the SOC. This initial SOP will assist in reducing some employee injuries, but not all.
SJA have currently emailed officers, notifying them of the SOP, and visual warnings next to the desk for staff to follow have been placed.
The AEAWA recognises this is a small intervention as the wider issue is still occurring. The equipment our members are using in the room has been proven to be unsafe, antiquated and responsible for numerous injuries.
Acoustic Protection Devices – In line with trying to reduce employee injury SJA have stated they will purchase 60 Acoustic Protection Devices for both the SOC and Wangara Hub.
SJA have stated these will be installed in the room by March 2nd 2021.
100 MDA Paltronic headsets to be purchased – In line with trying to reduce employee injury SJA have stated they will purchase 100 MDA Paltronic headsets for each employee.
SJA have stated these will be purchased and given to employees by March 2nd 2021.
New chairs for SOC employees – Members at the SOC have stated numerous times that the chairs they are using are uncomfortable and have outlived their use by dates. Numerous times SJA have been approached to purchase new chairs in the room.
SJA have assured both the AEAWA and SOC employees that the new chairs will be provided by March 2nd 2020.
New screens in both the SOC and Wangara Hub – One of the things looked at with CAD, a suggestion to go from 3 screens to one screen (big HD screen) and allow staff to set the screens up as they wish. This was to allow for a more seamless working environment.
Will be trialled soon, potentially on one radio then is feedback is positive a potential rollout.
Poor equipment in the SOC and Wangara Hub – Poor slow systems, multiple crews can not acknowledge AmbiCad so SOC are constantly asking crews for locations, causes angst amongst all parties and slows down the system. This causes significant stress and can result in crews taking longer to respond to the community.
SJA will review this and will provide feedback.
Both the SOC and Wangara Hub computer sound cards – What is happening with the sound cards on the computers (not all have them). Employees can not comply with the EMD training modules.
SJA will review this and upgrade any of the computers that do not have sound capability.
Some computers have been fitted out with soundcards, there are a few that have not.
When is a review of the entire network going to occur? – Potential review of the system to see what can possibly change in order to change things make it smoother and faster. Currently the computers freeze, the headsets vibrate and allow loud shrieks into the employees ears. Multiple injuries have occurred. WorkSafe WA have been involved multiple times and Radio cant seem to fix the issue.
SJA will review this and present findings at the next JCC.
Enough is enough. the AEAWA believe after 14-months and 30 incidents resulting in at least 7 employees needing time off work the organisation seems to be doing nothing to rectify these issues.
SOC employees access to the balcony area – Some SOC staff that use the balcony area for breaks are being advised they can not due to meeting occurring in the area. There are plenty of areas for staff and management to hold meetings, these should not occur in staff lunch areas.
SJA to review any issues, however it was agreed that this area is for SOC staff.
Staff are advised to email the AEAWA if they are feeling pressured to leave their lunch area.
Employed staff leaving for other positions – It was discussed that SJA are recruiting and training staff that are only working in the SOC for short periods of time, i.e., they apply for multi SJA positions, they may work in SOC for 6 months then leave to enter the paramedic training at university. In most cases SJA know this when employing these individuals. This places pressure on SOC staff to train an individual they know is leaving.
SJA has previously discussed this with various areas within and so far, this issue may potentially be ongoing until a solution is found.
Employees not completing their full shifts – Some individuals are arriving to work and not completing the full 12-hour shift, examples were provided on staff arrive at work at 06:50 and logging out and going home at 18:30. This leaves officers who have already worked their complete shift to stay even longer.
SJA do not want to change the times but will if a solution is not found they will have too. An email that you are employed for 12 hours will be sent by SJA, or a start/finish time will be decided by the organisation. Trial to fall back on the duty managers to monitor the times when are people clocking in and clocking out. Perhaps canvas the membership on what they want as well.
PTS Policies – Data on calls taken from SOC for PTS was presented, the hours of PTS had previously changed in order to reduce a multitude of calls being received in the SOC.
Start and finish times for PTS were reviewed and are being monitored. Potential to explorer the inability of SOC to send jobs to PTS 1.5 hours before end of shift. SJA to review these instances and provide feedback.
Constant computers freezing, radio failures, systems that are antiquated – Constant computers freezing, radio failures, systems that are antiquated and obviously are not keeping up with what needs to be required. Further updates to the systems often cause a multitude of issues causing stresses within the SOC.
SJA will review the issues.
Country redial number – Country Redial number country support, can the number be identified so it can come back to caller as callers call back and these are received by the RTM. Phone on dispatch for country, it should be like metro, the dispatcher is performing too many roles as the support is taking ‘000’ calls.
Once staff numbers improve the dispatcher will have a dedicated dispatcher on phone and also a country support officer to assist with the workload.
When is this staff number increase supposed to happen? SJA are currently reviewing the system (advised September 2021).
Extra Country Dispatcher – An extra Country Dispatcher to assist will limit significant employee stress. Country radio is extremely busy and with the person who is supposed to assist is always taking triple-o calls as the employee numbers within the SOC are dangerously low and often result in the community spending minutes trying to get though for an ambulance.
SJA believe this should occur when numbers increase.
The AEAWA would like to know when these ‘apparent’ extra employees will arrive.
Jandakot calls remaining on the system – Jandakot’s often sitting on screens for 24 hours, often causes delays, and there is a potential for calls to be missed. the allocation system constantly looks at these crews being available for calls. Causes significant stress for Radio Dispatchers sorting through crews who can actually attend the calls.
SJA believe the RFDS liaison office should be doing this, cleaning up the screen.
New employee shift allocation – New inductees being provided a permanent shift. They are being told in the college they will be, then they come out and are placed on a rotating shift pattern, this causes issues with childcare and other family commitments.
SJA will look and review, rosters will start going through the list system to fill the gaps in the roster so that students can be placed into areas after current officers are assigned to shifts. Leave blocks may need to change if you move to various other shifts. An April deadline for this process is more likely. A 16 week rotation may occur rather than every 8.
Radio etiquette – Radio etiquette, crews often click instead of acknowledging and correct radio use in some cases are not occurring. This often-required dispatchers to ask multiple times on air for an acknowledgement, which causes delays on dispatching other calls on the screen.
An email to all staff will be sent by SJA as a reminder of correct use of the radio.
The new ‘Sir’ and ‘Maam’ Protocol – The new ‘Sir’ or ‘Maam’ protocol, why is it necessary, creates confusion and staff think they appear unprofessional and not caring.
SJA will review this and review EMD specifics and will proved feedback.
Selcall for Cowcher – A Selcall at Cowcher is required, at times it is difficult to contact the crew.
SJA will review this and a consensus will be sought to see if one should be located there.
Sporting standbys on CAD – Sporting standbys on CAD creates confusion as the crews are coming up for metro responses which at times have delayed responses. We are struggling with no staff to answer triple-o calls, sometimes shifts miss over 400 emergency calls and staff are now logging on country crews for a sporting event. This takes a call taker out of the system for a sporting event.
SJA will review and provide feedback.
Abusive callers – NSW have a Zero Tolerance for abusive callers, some staff are being harassed on the phones and disturbing threats and/or comments are being relayed to staff. There is currently no protection by SJA for these occurrences, and there needs to be. ASNSW did a media campaign around this problem before the policy to ‘hang up’ was introduced.
SJA want further discussions to take place around this.
Country vehicle phones – Country vehicle phones an issue, too many numbers to call, phones in the vehicles, crew personnel mobiles and multiple depot mobiles cause delays in contacting crews. This results in poor response times to the community as valuable minutes are wasted calling multiple phones.
SJA will look into this.
Booking crews off the system on extended calls
Booking crews off on extended standbys, usually happen in country with certain long-term response (i.e bush fire standbys), these are occurring more and it is difficult to book crews off over this time frame..
SJA state this has been fixed.
Country events – Country Sporting events, SOC are placing these events on, receiving multiple calls during busy times, can these not be done by the crew or Regional Office? We are missing too many emergency calls, why are we then stopping answering triple-o calls to log a crew on for a sporting event? Which one of these does SJA prioritise?
Further discussions to reduce these calls have already commenced and feedback will be provided.
Here you will find information specific to Communications Officers; including your Certified Agreement and any AEAWA Statements relating to both the SOC and Wangara Hub.
News articles and media reports relating to your employment will be situated here. If you find articles you think should go up here please email the link to the committee ([email protected]).