Tallinn ambulance boss rejects unvaccinated staff calls for his resignation

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Raul Adlas in the Vikerraadio studio. Source: ERR/Romi Hasa

Fifteen Tallinn ambulance service staff who were served notice of termination of contract for failing to take a coronavirus vaccine have issued an appeal to Tallinn city government, charging the service's chief, Raul Adlas, with a dictatorial and intimidating management style, and have called for his dismissal.

The employees have made up a union, the EKTA, which has legal representation, and also charge Adlas with submitting false information in order to obtain grants and funding.

Adlas denies all charges.

Adlas told ERR the allegation of submitting false information in particular was simply a distortion of the facts.

He said: "This statement is taken from the minutes of board meetings. It dealt with a problem where the departure and arrival of an ambulance was not being recorded in the ambulance protocol, and was caused by a technical fault in the data system. The data must be entered manually."

"This does not mean that we invent it," he went on, adding that ambulance alert data is taken from the alarm center (Häirekeskus) and written in by hand in the case of a technical fault. The data is required for quality control processes, he said.

The ambulance drivers' union, the EKTA, filed several complaints with Tallinn City Government Monday, and has called for his removal from office.

Adlas said that while those who want total freedom and autonomy in the workplace are welcome to their viewpoint, his main priority was patient safety.

He said: "For people who love freedom, it may seem like harassment for an employer to make demands on them, and to follow orders. The point is that we want to protect our patients from any possible infection, and that means the requirement for those working on ambulance crews to be vaccinated. If that is to be deemed harassment, it is harassment over vaccines, but our goal is to protect the patients."

EKTA members had said that those of its members who refused to take a COVID-19 vaccine were being persecuted and discriminated against by the Tallinn ambulance service

The employees in question received notice of termination of their employment contract for refusal to take the vaccine, prompting them to petition Tallinn mayor Mihhail Kõlvart (Center) in an address in which they also charged Raul Adlas with an authoritarian leadership style, harassment and also with submitting false information.

The ambulance service had said in May that it would not be firing those employees who declined to take a coronavirus vaccine.

Adlas told ERR that the initiative was carried out on behalf of the disgruntled staff by a lawyer who, he said, wanted to disrupt the service's activities and make things as uncomfortable as possible.

Adlas, who has been in his post for two decades, denied the charge of authoritarianism, provided as evidence what he said was positive employee feedback and added that he would be going nowhere.

"If they (EKTA) have the money to hire a lawyer who shows the need for vaccination, then I have to protect those patients who don't have the money to protect themselves in order to get a safe ambulance service. As long as it's in our hands, it's it is my job to protect our patients and I am working towards that he went on.

Adlas is required to provide answers to the charges to Tallinn City Government by the end of this week, ERR reports.

Chair of the city government's social and health care board, Raimo Saadi, told ERR's Russian-language portal that the board and the city government take the charges very seriously, but would not comment further.

Saadi said: All the proposals must be reviewed with reasons and arguments. It is necessary to ask for additional explanations, gather additional materials if necessary, and then an assessment can be made.

The most important consideration is maintaining the regular work capacity of the ambulance service in the day-to-day, he went on.

Adlas had appeared many times in the media during the worst waves of the pandemic so far, often detailing how work practices and processes would need altering to deal with the additional demand.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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