The safety and wellbeing of paramedics has been viewed as secondary, according to claims made by frontline staff, who say they were told not to use an upgraded ambulance and stretcher already approved for operation before a planned media event.
A Northern paramedic, who wishes to remain anonymous out of fears of repercussions, says a retrofitted ambulance featuring a new Stryker Powered Stretcher was used operationally for the first time during a night shift on Sunday.
However, on Monday a day shift crew operating the same vehicle observed a yellow-written "do not use" label stuck to the ambulance.
When the crew queried the label, they claim to have been told the retrofitted ambulance and powered stretcher were not to be used until it had been formally launched by the health minister on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the health minister's office said there was never a planned media launch. Ambulance Tasmania denied the claims as "completely untrue".
In other news:
A spokesperson said while the new stretchers had been used operationally, there were still some components to be delivered before it was "completely operational".
"The duty manager affixed a notice to the vehicle that crews needed to check in with the duty manager before using the vehicle to ensure proper oversight of the stretcher's use and remove the risk of any personnel who have not had full training on the equipment inadvertently using that vehicle," the spokesman said.
"The stretcher is available to be used operationally by suitably-trained paramedics in situations not requiring the components that are yet to arrive."
Ambulance Tasmania announced the introduction of the powered stretchers in November last year, with 10 powered stretchers to be made operational this month.
The upgraded models are designed to relieve the risk of paramedics injuring their backs when lifting loaded stretchers into ambulances.
Launceston paramedics have been undertaking training to use the new stretchers since December. However, the paramedic said staff continued to be exposed to occupational hazards while lifting and carrying patients requiring emergency paramedical care.
Health and Community Services Union Tasmania secretary Tim Jacobson said back, shoulder and neck injuries were very high among paramedics.
"I would be more inclined to believe the worker on the ground, then any of the bureaucracy of government, when it comes to issues like this," he said.
"Given these stretchers were available to be used at a particular point in time, in order to address worker and patient safety, it is ridiculous they weren't able to be used until someone was able to cut a ribbon on them."