Volunteer pressure mounts at new Coolamon Ambulance Station

A Wagga paramedic has again pushed against Coolamon Ambulance Station’s plans, warning a heavier reliance on volunteers could cause widespread social and economical damage. 

FILE IMAGE

FILE IMAGE

“When Qantas allows someone as a volunteer to hop in a simulator it doesn’t mean they can fly the aeroplane,” paramedic John Larter said. 

“Why is it alright for volunteers on an ambulance to do to the work of paramedics?” 

Australian Paramedics Association zone liaison Darren Rudd said having volunteers able to join paramedics after just 10 days of training was “insulting”. 

“Volunteers are great, if they’re used for paper work and things behind the scenes like they do for police,” Mr Rudd said. 

“Those volunteers don’t do the front line police work – the potential for danger is too great and it’s the same for paramedics.” 

Mr Larter said the current model would create “massive safety issues” in workplaces across Coolamon. 

“What’s going to happen when someone from steel works is out all night, has an 8am start and cuts their hand off in a press?” Mr Larter said. 

“Employers are not going to be happy about employees being dragged out multiple times a day to assist the ambulance.” 

With just three paramedics and a team of volunteers, Mr Larter said Coolamon was “missing out”, given areas like Batlow with a lesser population had access to five paramedics. 

Defending the model and its staffing levels in a previous statement, NSW Ambulance operational support manager Superintendent Brad Porter said the station would provide additional capacity for multiple emergencies.  

“It is clear this project is a major investment that will boost mobile emergency health services in the area,” Mr Porter said. 

Mr Porter said recruitment for the paramedic and volunteer ambulance officer positions was progressing well.

“NSW Ambulance would like to reassure the community that the closest crew, whether two paramedics or a paramedic and qualified volunteer, will always be responded to a life threatening emergency,” Mr Porter said. 

Mr Larter said while volunteers would have access to trauma counselling and support, certain emergencies would still be difficult to deal with. 

“After 22 years, I am trained to cope with it but putting someone in a situation who is a school leaver or a vulnerable community member is entirely different,” he said. 

“It’s difficult to work in a team with someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.” NSW Ambulance did not provide further comment by deadline.