The president of the Australian Paramedics Association said staffing Coolamon’s Ambulance Station predominantly with volunteers is pure “penny-pinching” and puts lives at risk.
“What’s an acceptable amount of people to die because they don’t enjoy the same amount of care that is promised and delivered as best practice all around the state already?” Steve Pearce said.
Locals and the association have condemned the state government’s staffing of the new Coolamon Ambulance Station with three paramedics and a team of volunteers.
The union are calling for a dual-paramedic model, requiring five paramedics.
He said well-meaning volunteers will never be comparable to trained paramedics and is concerned for community safety.
NSW Ambulance has approved ‘a blended model’ of staffing for the new $1.5 million dollar station, with one paramedic on-call at all times.
Director of Regional Ambulance Infrastructure Reconfiguration, Chief Superintendent Alex Cardenas said modelling showed Coolamon Shire averages less than one patient call out per day and he’s “very confident” they have met demands.
He said the model had unanimous support from council and town hall meetings and extensive consultation and modelling was undertaken to reach the decision.
“The staffing enhancement of three paramedics plus NSW Ambulance trained and qualified Volunteer Ambulance Officers is a significant improvement as there has never been ambulance services or paramedics directly located in Coolamon in NSW Ambulance's 122 year history.”
The station was built as “a full-time salaried station” and “if demand does rise we are committed to rise with it,” he said.
The first round of volunteer ambulance officers has already been recruited from the community.
Volunteers receive 10 days training and continuing distance education.
Mr Pearce believes the data used to determine need is flawed.
“People don’t call 000 where there is no ambulance station… people will put people in their own cars,” he said.
The Ambulance Establishment Committee, a local lobby group, fought for the station for 20 years.
Committee member Colin Patterson said the staffing is of concern to the aging population.
“The elderly are really looking forward to this,” he said.
“They can have attention there in 5 or 10 minutes rather than wait half an hour.”
The committee insist residents won’t rest until more paramedics are hired.
“We might be aging but we’re not going to stop,” Mr Patterson said.