As previously announced, a protest by paramedics has started in Warsaw. On Wednesday, many of them did not come to work, and as a result, at least 40 of the 80 teams did not go to the patients. – And so it will be for the next six days – announces one of the rescuers in an interview with tvnwarszawa.pl. Due to the lack of ambulances, a helicopter from the Polish Medical Air Rescue had to fly in two events in the capital.
Paramedics protest against low wages and poor working conditions. Already a few weeks ago they warned that in September there could be a situation in which ambulances would not go to patientsbecause there will be no one to be on duty there. And as they announced, they did so – on Wednesday, September 1, many of them did not report to work.
– We are treated like uniformed services, so we cannot protest. So we reported our unavailability – we informed us a month in advance that we cannot work within this period, because, for example, we have to take care of our health – an anonymous paramedic explains to us, who goes to the Warsaw Ambulance Service on a daily basis. – And so, according to the control room, 42 Medical Rescue Teams did not leave on Wednesday morning.
– And it will be so for the next six days. Unless the boss manages to bribe the rescuers, because there are rumors that they will attract them to work, offering a higher salary. For now, however, no details are available – he adds.
From another lifeguard, who also wants to remain anonymous, we hear similar numbers: – At 7 o’clock 42 teams were missing. Later this number increased, because rescuers are obliged to stay on call until 9.00 am. After the 9th, 52 teams were already inactive.
Every day, the operational region of Warsaw and the surrounding area is served by a total of 80 Medical Rescue Teams. This means that more than half of the ambulances did not leave on Wednesday.
We tried to confirm the number of missing teams with the spokesman of the Capital City “Meditrans”, Piotr Owczarski, and the spokeswoman of the Masovian voivode, Ewa Filipowicz, but we have not received an answer so far.
Meanwhile, as established by the reporter of tvnwarszawa.pl Mateusz Szmelter, two incidents near schools in Ursynów on Cybisa and Puszczyka streets had to arrive on Wednesday by helicopters of the Polish Medical Air Rescue. LPR spokeswoman Justyna Sochacka confirmed that the helicopters were called because there were no ambulances.
Lifeguards leave work
Rescuers expect specific solutions and pay rises. Though they haven’t been getting the covid add-ons since June, they’re still working hard. One of the Warsaw rescuers, Maciej Koperski, in an interview with the editors of “Polska i Świat” in August, indicated that it often takes about 350-400 hours a month. Basic salary is simply not enough for rescuers. In Warsaw, we hear that a paramedic earns an average of PLN 45 gross per hour, but the interlocutors of the program talked about a few zlotys gross. One of them calculated: – 34 zlotys times a full-time job, or 168 hours, gives us the amount of 5,712 zlotys. Let’s subtract ZUS, PLN 1,300 and tax. We are left with PLN 3,573.
From this, they often have to subtract the costs of clothing and training that they have to bear themselves – this applies to some rescuers who sign contracts as part of running their own business. – Rescuers quit their jobs, terminate their contracts or thoroughly examine themselves and go on sick leave – described the situation Piotr Dymon, chairman of the National Trade Union of Medical Rescuers. It is a form of protest aimed at fighting for better working conditions and higher wages. Rescuers claim that they earn too little, although their work is risking their lives and health, they are responsible for the life of the entire society.
The seriousness of the situation is confirmed by examples from Wrocław or Białystok, where many contract rescuers have already resigned. – There are 135 people on notice, and this is in fact two-thirds of the ambulance staff – said Paweł Zaworski, a paramedic from Białystok.
“Meditrans is struggling with increasing financial problems”
When in August the capital emergency service presented 10 new ambulances, director of the capital “Meditrans” Karol Bielski spoke about the money from the local government – Thanks to this, we can pursue other goals and tasks. Thanks to this, we can maintain a correspondingly higher level of remuneration, without allocating these funds for investments, and being able to transfer them also to higher rates of remuneration, which at the moment seem to me to be insufficient to compensate for the hardships of paramedics’ work.
We then asked the spokesman for “Meditrans”, Piotr Owczarski, whether this means that increases are planned in the near future. – “Meditrans” is struggling with increasing financial problems. The growing costs of providing emergency medical services exceed the funds currently received from the state budget for this purpose. The financial requirements of paramedics exceed our capabilities – said Owczarski.
He added that “the fight against the pandemic drained the ambulance budget to the limit.” – Only in the emergency medical service in the capital, the fight against the pandemic cost the budget over PLN 43 million and for many months the counter with costs was spinning like crazy. Rigorous adherence to sanitary regimes came at a price. Among others, the ambulance service has already spent over PLN 43 million on masks, protective suits, visors, safety glasses and disposable gloves. For comparison, the purchase of 29 ultra-modern ambulances cost almost PLN 17 million – argued Owczarski.
He also noted that “Meditrans” can only operate within the budget it receives from the state: – Our budget is approved by the Ministry of Health and until the Ministry of Health gives us additional funds for the payment of higher wages – despite sincere willingness; there is nothing we can do. The management cannot put the ambulance in debt, because the next step may be its bankruptcy.
Main photo source: Mateusz Szmelter / tvnwarszawa.pl