My apologies for not blogging very much last week, unfortunately my mind was occupied by some rather important things…
It started with one of my station officers handing me an envelope, in it was an appointment to see my immediate boss and a human resources manager to talk about my current level of sickness.
At the time I was on a 'Formal warning', essentially I was ordered not to be sick otherwise I could face disciplinary procedures that could end up with me being fired.
In the letter detailing the appointment it told me that I could bring a union rep (I don't belong to any union as the main one seems about as much good as a chocolate teapot and I refuse to fund them) or a friend, and whatever paperwork I deemed necessary.
I phoned my boss and asked her if the meeting would be a friendly little chat or if I should be worried – I was told that I should bring a union rep along with me and any paperwork.
This led me to worry somewhat about my future with the London Ambulance Service.
So last week was spent either preparing for the meeting, or stretched out on my sofa just plain worrying about it, jotting down logical arguments about why I should keep my job.
I thought that it wouldn't be too hard to fight my corner – in the last eighteen months I'd had four periods of sickness, however two of those were work related. One of which was when I was assaulted by a patient for around half an hour, the other caused by doing CPR in an enclosed space for forty minutes or so.
Then there was apparently a 'back pain' that I couldn't remember and of course my recent epididymitis.
If you were to take out the two work related injuries you'd realise that I'd been sick twice in eighteen months, which in my opinion is pretty good.
On the appointed day I found myself in the office being told that, depending on the meeting, I could end up being sent to Waterloo to have my sickness 'handled' by upper management (which I suspect would have me out looking or another job), I could be kept on the formal warning, or I could be removed from any warning.
The thing that surprised me about the meeting was that the people present seemed to blame me for the assault (I was wrestling with a potentially brain injured patient, and the 'urgent police' we called for didn't turn up), that if I were to be assaulted again I could be further disciplined for that sickness. I assured them that I wasn't planing on being assaulted again.
I explained that an ambulance officer had already told me not to wrestle patients, so the next head injury patient that wants to wander off into traffic can do so.
Then, concerning the other workplace caused sickness, I was asked if it were really necessary for me to undertake an extended CPR in an enclosed space – I explained that the patient was heavy and 'stuck' and so, no, I couldn't move them to a place where it would be easier to do CPR. I continued to remind them that once I start CPR, according to LAS policy, I'm not supposed to stop.
I reassured them that my epididmytis was unlikely to return, and even if it were I'd be able to recognise the grumbling early signs and start on the antibiotics a lot quicker.
I was sent out of the room while they discussed what to do with me.
It didn't take long – I would be kept on a formal warning until December, so all I have to do is not be sick until then. At which point I could well be taken off my disciplinary sanction.
I promised them that even if I were to catch the dreaded swine 'flu I'd still be in for work – at which they said nothing.
I mention this, not to have a dig at the people in the meeting – they have the rules that they have to follow and ultimately they treated me fairly. I mention this just to show the sorts of rules that govern road staff, people who are placed in danger, are often in close proximity to infectious patients and who work long rotating shifts with no break while having to carry heavy patients downstairs.
I mention this because the same rules apply to those in the LAS who work in the offices 9-5 Monday to Friday dealing with paperwork and going to meetings, walking around with clipboards and drawing up policy documents.
I mention it because I've heard that around half of road staff are on an 'informal warning' – and that if this is the case, either there is something wrong with half your staff, or there is something wrong with the sickness policy.
I have a nice little holiday next week – to say that I am really rather looking forward to it would be the understatement of the century. A week in an all inclusive hotel in Egypt doing very little but reading and lazing by the pool. I'm counting down the hours I've left to work before I fly out.