NSW Ambulance response times called into question by paramedics' union

HELP NEEDED: Increasing numbers of call outs and no new staff have the paramedics' union calling for help. Photo: FILE
HELP NEEDED: Increasing numbers of call outs and no new staff have the paramedics' union calling for help. Photo: FILE

LONGER response times and rising call-out numbers have left the paramedics' union pleading for more staff in the Central West.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a $1 billion investment into ambulance services in June last year, including 750 new paramedics and staff over a four-year period.

While 200 new paramedics joined the ranks during 2018/19, none started work at a station in Central or Western NSW, the Australian Paramedics Association (APA) says.

Union executive officer Scott Beaton works in the region and he said he has seen first-hand how staff levels impact response times.

"It's increasing paramedics' fatigue levels and, as it progresses up the chain, it impacts hospitals," he said.

"We've needed extra [paramedics] out here for some time."

Dubbo region paramedics have experienced a 19.4 per cent jump in responses, from 4009 in January to February 2018 to 4788 in the same period this year.

Responses in Orange jumped by 10.8 per cent (2767 to 3067), call outs in the Lachlan Valley increased by 9.8 per cent (3174 to 3485) and Young/Yass increased by 9.5 per cent (1675 to 1834).

While Bathurst responses jumped by 7.0 per cent (2005 to 2146) and in Lithgow/Mudgee paramedics had a 3.7 per cent jump in call outs (2232 to 2314).

The increase in responses lead to a longer median time for an ambulance to reach the emergency case in all regions except Bathurst which had a slight decrease.

Mr Beaton said the NSW Government's promise of 750 new staff across a four-year period was too long and called for new paramedics now.

"As soon as you get on this side of the sandstone curtain we're just forgotten," he said.

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Mr Beaton said a scheduled SWEP (State Wide Enhancement Program) meeting to plan for staff in Western NSW should have been held last November, but he said it was cancelled and never re-booked.

"What they're planning for Western NSW, we still don't know because they haven't informed the union of the staff," he said.

"I've no idea when new paramedics are coming out."

APA president Chris Kastelan said paramedics were doing their best to cope with the workload but were frustrated by the slow rollout of recruits.

"The latest figures on response times show that NSW Ambulance is failing to provide adequate frontline services to the public," he said.

"We can't wait for another three years for new paramedics to join the ranks. We need them on the job now to cope with a serious upsurge in patients during the current flu season.

"NSW Ambulance is struggling to meet the demand because they have failed to match the numbers of crews with the increasing numbers of calls from the public."

NSW Ambulance were contacted for this story but were unable to provide a response before deadline.

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