The Royal Flying Doctor Service has been accused of underpaying healthcare workers in remote South Australian communities, with the employees’ union set to lodge a formal underpayment of wages claim to the SA Employment Tribunal.
The claim relates to the Royal Flying Doctor Service’s (RFDS) payment of health service assistants, who provide clinical assistance to nurses in outback communities.
Their usual working hours are 9am to 5pm five days a week on a two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off, fly-in fly-out basis.
According to the Health Services Union (HSU), during the two weeks they are rostered to work each month, they are expected to respond to medical-related callouts outside of work hours without additional remuneration or penalty rates.
The assistants are currently employed under the 2020 Health Professionals and Support Services Award, but the union argues they should instead be paid at least $60,000 a year in accordance with the Ambulance Service Award.
HSU state branch secretary Billy Elrick told InDaily that union officials had first raised concerns with the RFDS about its payment of health service assistants in June last year.
He said following “unproductive” discussions, the union would this week lodge a formal underpayment of wages claim to the SA Employment Tribunal.
“It is our sincere hope that the RFDS will do the right thing and show that they value the critical work that the HSAs (health service assistants) do,” he said.
They perform duties such as CPR, taking blood pressure and preparing IV fluids.
The role was created in response to the passing of “Gayle’s Law” in South Australia in 2017, which legislates that nurses in rural and remote areas must be accompanied by another worker when responding to medical callouts.
The RFDS must comply with Gayle’s Law as a health organisation that delivers primary healthcare and 24-hour emergency services for those who live in remote and rural South Australia.
In a statement, a spokesperson from the RFDS said that the organisation paid health service assistants above the 2020 Health Professionals and Support Services Award.
“The RFDS continues to be open and accessible in discussions with its staff and the Health Services Union on this matter,” they said.
The RFDS assists more than 56,000 patients in South Australia and the Northern Territory each year.
It operates four aeromedical bases in Adelaide, Alice Springs, Darwin and Port Augusta, as well as three remote primary healthcare clinics in Andamooka, Marla and Maree.