Ambulancemen's union threatens protest over paramedics' subsidy
New Year campaign for first increase in rate of subsidy paid to trained paramedics since 1988
An ambulancemen's union has threatened to stage a protest on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, saying the Fire Services Department does not give due recognition to trained paramedics.
The union is seeking increased subsidies and the creation of a new rank so they can be promoted to reflect their training. It also wants similarly trained junior crew to be rewarded.
Ambulancemen began being trained as paramedics - including administering injections, drips and some emergency medicine - in 1991 so they could provide emergency aid before taking patients to hospital. By 2005, each ambulance was required to have at least one trained paramedic on board.
They receive a monthly subsidy of HK$1,500 but are dissatisfied that the rate has not changed since 1998, the union says.
"The current subsidy level cannot fully reflect what we have devoted to our job, our responsibilities and our hard work," Chan Shi-ki, chairman of the Fire Services Department Ambulancemen's Union, said.
The union is asking its members to display banners of their demands on ambulances on December 31 and January 1.
If the department fails to respond, the union will not rule out another protest or a request for about 200 officers to stop providing paramedic services.
The subsidy is set at 10 per cent of the entry-level salary of an ambulanceman, or HK$700 in 1998. The percentage has not been reviewed but the amount has gone up to HK$1,500 due to increases in starting pay.
Chan said ambulancemen had picked up more complex paramedic skills since 1991, including the ability to use potentially dangerous medicine such as adrenaline, which can pose a risk to life if applied in excess.
In 1998, a standing commission on civil service salaries and conditions of service suggested including the ambulancemen's subsidy in the base salary of trained officers and creating a new rank to promote them. However, the department did not act on the ideas, the union said.
In 2010, the union called for the percentage to be raised to 20 to 25 per cent. The department rejected the request last month but agreed to increase the number of officers eligible for the subsidy, though it did not specify a new upper limit. A current cap on the number of eligible officers means more than 200 junior ranking officers are excluded.
Chan said junior crew who perform paramedic duties when their supervisors are absent do not receive any subsidy.
Of the 2,000 ambulancemen in the city, 1,100 possess paramedic knowledge, more than 800 at the supervisory level.
The union was also prompted to protest because of its 20-year fight for a longer lunch period.
A department spokesman said it would consider a request for ambulances to display protest banners if one is submitted.