But not always. And probably not if you are Owen McLauchlan. Last week he was the target of many furious Tweets and blogposts, excoriating him for his actions. And those were?
Wanting his mandated tea-break. The heartless fiend...
An ambulance technician who chose not to respond to what proved to be a fatal heart attack when he was on a tea break has been told he can keep his job.Training for what, precisely? In how to be a better servant to the almighty State, and to willingly work beyond the limits of hunger, or tiredness, until you make a mistake and get hauled over the coals for that instead?
The technician was 800 yards away when 33-year-old Mandy Mathieson had a cardiac arrest in Tomintoul, Moray.
However, the call was instead answered by paramedics based 15 miles away in Grantown-on-Spey.
The technician has been ordered to undergo training.
As I pointed out on Anticitizen One's blogpost at 'National Death Service', if there's a fault here, then surely it lies with the ambulance service and their understaffing that meant adequate nearby cover for his break wasn't forthcoming?
Ms Mathieson's uncle, Charlie Skene, 52, said the family was not surprised by the ambulance service decision, although it was disappointed.Oh, please! You've already admitted that he was well within his rights to do what he did. Why not direct some of that anger at the situation which means if an ambulance technician stops for a sandwich or a wee, there's no cover for miles?
He said: "He was only abiding by their rules but what are they going to teach him?
"Surely they can't teach compassion, so what are they going to give him lessons in?
"That they are employing him shows you a lot about the people at the top. They're happy having that kind of people working for them."
And is the man supposed to run purely on 'compassion' alone? He's not an automaton!
I can't help seeing this attitude - that 'first responders' should be expected to go above and beyond their normal duties at all costs - as a flip side of the fetishisation of work that seems to crop up in the comments to Charlotte Gore's post on the English work ethic.
I'll be honest here - if I didn't need to work to pay the bills and keep myself in the style to which I've become accustomed, I wouldn't.
And here's the difference between the public and private sectors. It was his right to take a tea break, and nothing was going to stop him. Never mind that the whole reason for his employment, and all his training, was to help people in distress. The worker's rights must come first.
If someone died because I had insisted on a cup of tea at the negotiated and agreed time, according to national guidelines etc., I could never live with myself.
Sorry to disagree Julia, but Richard is right. The ambulance service is an emergency service. The key words here are emergency and service. Fire service and Police officers are required to drop their knife and fork when an emergency occurs, and to go and deal with it immediately, not another mouthful. Are ambulance personnel less vital emergency resources? NO! If ambulance staff are entitled to refuse to attend an emergency because they've not had their full meal break entitlement (and let's face it, they may already have scoffed their butties and just be playing cards), then whoever drew up that contract needs retraining.
I found these few blog posts on tea/meal breaks in the ambulance service to be rather enlightning:
From the point of view of the paramedic:
From the point of view of the call center/control room personnel:
http://www.neenaw.co.uk/index.php/ambulances/162/tea-breaks/ and http://www.neenaw.co.uk/index.php/ambulances/168/tea-breaks-again/
This may in fact not be the paramedic's fault at all. But instead the fault of regulations and targets which can get him or the call taker punished for him working through his break.
I find myself agreeing with the above. Some job roles require a little more than average. If you sign up for such a position you should be willing to do what is necessary.
One of the first aiders at my works did a similar thing, refused to help someone because he was going for dinner. In this instance there were a good three or four people to take over but he still had his first aid duties taken off him.
Totally agree about the inadequate cover though. What would happen if this guy did respond but his vehicle broke down?
Not sure it's to do with work ethic, or taking or not taking tea-breaks, designated emergency services or whatever. It certainly suggests a complete and utter failure on the part of management to define the purpose of their 'service' and how it is to be achieved.
One of the triumphs of the last years was the implementation of managerialism and the culture of setting targets, objectives and whatever that were carefully chosen to be easily achievable and have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual 'service' required.
Its a difficult one. I agree with Richard - I couldn't live with myself if I sat on my arse eating my sandwiches and someone died as a result.
BUT the management should take the blame for not having sufficient cover in place.
You have to factor in what would have happened if, because he was overtired, a paramedic made an error and someone died. Who's at fault then?
I'm not saying that the management here is free of blame. But when someone is seriously ill, management structures are irrelevant, just like the elf'n'safety rules for plastic coppers when someone is drowning. As a human being, you either respond, or you don't, and this guy didn't.
Just an addendum. If a body of people regard what they deal with as emergencies, then that demands immediate response. No ifs or buts. If the incidents they deal with are not emergencies, then why are they permitted by law to barge through traffic at some speed to get to these incidents? The use of blues & twos suggests that they do deal with emergencies. What is their definition of an emergency? An incident which demands immediate response unless the nearest staff member hasn't finished his game of snooker?
If indeed, as has been suggested, this situation is the fault of either management or unions, then heads should roll, and the situation should be rectified.
I'm afraid we disagree on this one.
Perhaps you would have a change of heart had it been your mother/sister/daughter. God forbid.
With regard to the Uncle's comment on not being able to teach the guy compassion, I have a good go; with hob-nail boots.
He should be fired, at the very least.
"It was his right to take a tea break, and nothing was going to stop him. Never mind that the whole reason for his employment, and all his training, was to help people in distress."
It is, yes. When he's on duty.
But surely it's his right to have a break? And to have adequate cover for that break so that he doesn't have to make the call?
" Fire service and Police officers are required to drop their knife and fork when an emergency occurs, and to go and deal with it immediately, not another mouthful. Are ambulance personnel less vital emergency resources? NO!"
The posts that salegamine refers us to are quite enlightening on that point...
"This may in fact not be the paramedic's fault at all. But instead the fault of regulations and targets which can get him or the call taker punished for him working through his break."
Very interesting. Puts quite a new complexion on this tangled tale.
"In this instance there were a good three or four people to take over but he still had his first aid duties taken off him."
So now you are out one first aid officer for no good reason? That doesn't seem sensible to me.
"One of the triumphs of the last years was the implementation of managerialism and the culture of setting targets, objectives and whatever that were carefully chosen to be easily achievable and have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual 'service' required."
"You have to factor in what would have happened if, because he was overtired, a paramedic made an error and someone died. Who's at fault then?"
The paramedic, I suspect. Again.
"Perhaps you would have a change of heart had it been your mother/sister/daughter. God forbid."
I hope I wouldn't, because I can see the flip side here, and that's my mother/sister being misdiagnosed by a tired, distracted paramedic who has been unable to take his scheduled rest break...
I read tbose links from salegamine, and they were quite enlightening. But for me they don't alter the essential issue: what is the balance between my 'right' to have a break from my work, and your 'right' to my assistance when your life is in danger, and I am equipped and trained to help you? In my view, your life comes first every time, ahead of my sandwiches, my tiredness, my control's instructions and EU regs every time.
If you take the employment aspect out of it, and think of the situation as simply between human beings, it becomes clear - of course someone would go the the assistance of someone else, and tiredness and a prawn sandwich wouldn't come into it. So how come the fact that the paramedics are trained, paid and equipped by the state (i.e. all of us) to do that very job actually make it less likely to happen?
When those PCSOs stood by and let someone drown because of the 'rules', they were rightly excoriated in the press and the blogosphere. Apart from the fact that people hate PCSOs and admire paramedics, how is this any different? Would I risk the sack to save someone's life? Of course I would. It all goes to show how people's relationships and behaviour get poisoned as soon as the state gets involved.
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