A new ambulance station in the Riverina “is exciting for the community” but paramedics say they have concerns.
A “blended paramedic and health services model” has been approved and is underway in Coolamon, according to NSW Ambulance.
Under the new model, three paramedics will be supported by a newly trained volunteer unit, with one paramedic guaranteed as either rostered or on-call at all times.
While NSW Ambulance projected about 300 incidents every year, Australian Paramedic Association (APA) members said the number could be a lot higher and fear staff numbers will be too low.
It follows a meeting between NSW Ambulance and union members on Thursday morning.
APA delegate and frontline paramedic John McCormack said even though the new station was fantastic and volunteers were great, small towns deserved to have full-time paramedics servicing the area at all times.
As a result, the union has called for two day-time and two night-time paramedics to cover emergency calls in the Coolamon area.
“This is the first consultation we’ve had,” Mr McCormack said. “We want to see at least four full-time paramedics, ideally five.”
He said there was no intended disrespected towards volunteers but many had only trained for 10 days when paramedics trained for three years.
Mr McCormack said if paramedics were sent to Wagga it would leave Coolamon depleted of resources.
APA zone liaison and Wagga paramedic Darren Rudd said it was “really disappointing” that consultation had only taken place once the model was signed and construction had begun.
“What we need is a two-officer crew to respond immediately,” Mr Rudd said. “Our concern is that there wont be enough volunteers and there are no plans in place otherwise.”
“If they don’t get the volunteers what are they going to do,” Mr Rudd said.
“If they had a five-officer model out there we could consider that a staff enhancement for Wagga because we know they would be called in ... but they haven’t got a five-officer model.”
NSW Ambulance paramedic educator and infrastructure development director Alex Cardenas said the plan was designed following extensive research and consultation with Coolamon Shire’s residents.
“The model proposed was the best to meet community needs,” Mr Cardenas said. “If demand does rise we’re building the station with future growth in mind.”
He said the shared workload was “very sustainable” and “the best matching of paramedics as well”.