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Striking ambulance worker says ‘something needs to change’

21 Dec 2022 4 minute read
Harry Maskers, a former Royal Marine who now works as an EMT for the Welsh Ambulance Service. Photo Bronwen Weatherby PA Images

A former Royal Marine who is among striking health workers described it as “demoralising” to spend entire shifts waiting outside hospitals with patients stuck in the back of ambulances as he demanded “something needs to change”.

Harry Maskers from Cardiff has worked as an emergency medical technician for three years.

The 34-year-old who works for the Welsh Ambulance Service said that while he was unable to strike during his military career, he was taking the opportunity to do so now, with “the kicker” being the Government’s refusal to discuss the issue of pay.

The Government has continued to cite the independence of the pay review process as it refuses to negotiate on pay demands.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay on Wednesday argued that there is now a need to “look forward” to next year’s pay process as he declined to review the current offer to striking workers.

While some ambulance workers have said they will leave the picket line to attend emergency calls during the industrial action, Mr Maskers said he had taken the “difficult decision” not to, describing a normal working day as feeling like being on strike due to the obstacles involved in trying to do their job properly.

Kicker

He told the PA news agency: “There’s a number of reasons I’m choosing to strike today but I think the kicker for me was the Government saying they’re not even going to discuss a pay increase with us.

“So I’ve made the difficult decision to come into work to strike in civilian clothes. I won’t be responding to critical calls like many of my colleagues who are doing the same.

“All the calls we respond to on a day-to-day basis are critical anyway so personally I feel that if you come in and do the derogations nothing really changes.

“Every shift feels like a strike anyway because most of the time we’re not responding to calls.

“A lot of the time I’ll sign on to an ambulance and the first job of the day is to go down to the hospital, relieve the night or day crew, and then I will spend my whole shift outside the hospital.”

He described patients having to be cared for while stuck in the back of ambulances for hours on end.

Demoralising

He said: “We didn’t join to do that, and it’s so demoralising for us and most importantly, regardless of what we’re feeling, there’s a patient on the back of the ambulance who potentially has waited up to 30 hours or more for us to come.

“Then they will have to wait an insane amount of hours outside hospital, only to be let in and have to wait X amount of hours to see a doctor or a nurse because they’re also chronically understaffed and stressed.

“The back of an ambulance is no place to toilet someone, to wash someone, to comfort someone in distress.

“I feel like unless I take action this pattern will continue.”

He said he knows of colleagues who have had to use foodbanks due to how much they are struggling financially.

Asked about the cost-of-living crisis, Mr Maskers said: “Doing a job not for the money is all well and good but it doesn’t pay your mortgage, and it doesn’t put food on your kid’s table.

“I earn less now than I did when I was 20 and working in a call centre, and believe me I experience a lot more trauma in this job.

“I’m a single dad but I’m fortunate, I have a strong support network and family around me. But I know people a lot worse off who are having to use food banks.

“One day you’re saving someone’s life or holding someone’s hands because their son has committed suicide upstairs.

“The next day you’re going into a food bank because you can’t feed yourself. It’s beyond a joke now and something needs to change.”


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Mark Brain
Mark Brain
1 month ago

I support the strikes taking place now and I don’t believe the UK governments statement that they don’t have the money!

Valerie Matthews
Valerie Matthews
1 month ago

MS Mone is currently having a six thousand a week holiday on money she took illegally from the NHS .Where is the noise about this. These rich parasites in Government are taking us ALL for a ride,whilst NHS and other workers struggling to exist! It is not acceptable in any civilised Country. We are no better than a Banana Republic under this bent Government!

Huw Phillips
Huw Phillips
1 month ago

I agree with this EMT totally it’s the Tory liars in London causing this! Will the Government of Wales please not take it up the bum like unionists! Independence Now!

David
David
1 month ago

I like the fact that this is not the person’s real name and the report appears to have not revealed that.
The term ‘Harry Maskers’ is from the navy to mean ‘any old masking tape’.
Harry being a general go to term to provide a name/nickname for masking tape as it has become so useful it is deemed worthy of special reference. The navy like to have a nickname for everything they regularly use and find useful.
As a former submariner I spent many hours wrapping Harry Maskers around high end kit to keep it going.

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