There are increasing calls for the State Government to provide more resources for the Riverina’s paramedics following the latest Bureau of Health Information report.
Performance trend of the Murrumbidgee Zone’s ambulance decreased while activity has increased, the April–June 2018 report shows.
The report shows a rise of 2–7 per cent in incidents, responses and patient transports compared with both the previous quarter and with the same period in 2017.
The number of ambulance responses for ‘highest priority’ increased 10.9 per cent and 16.8pc for April–June 2017 and January–March 2018, respectively.
However, ambulance performance trend has decreased, which includes the categories of ambulance arrival time, mobilisation time, ambulance response time and turnaround time.
Compared with the same quarter last year, only one of the 22 measurements across the four categories shows a positive difference: the percentage of ambulance turnaround time within 45 minutes improved 1pc.
However, compared with January–March this year, five showed positive differences.
Riverina paramedic John Larter, who has been an advocate for more staffing and resources, said “until staffing is addressed, we’re going to see issues like this pop up in the data”.
“Staffing levels need to be looked at – in Wagga and across the state,” Mr Larter said.
Staffing levels need to be looked at – in Wagga and across the state.John Larter, Riverina paramedic
“In Tumut, we’ve still got a very high component of on-call staff during 6pm to 8am who have already been on duty for 10–12 hours.
“It’s not ideal.”
He said that the figures were “not as bad as they could be because frontline paramedics work so hard with the resources they have”.
“The promising thing is that there is a real concerted effort by the Berejiklian Government to address these issues,” he said.
“We just got to hope that senior management of NSW Ambulance is a part of that.
“It’s all well and good for the government to show intent, but I’m not sure if the organisation is.”
Similarly, the Australian Paramedics Association NSW said the latest report shows “a system under significant stressors both from within and externally”.
“Across the state and in many categories, it shows an organisation that has at best struggled to give the care to the community that they rightly should expect,” president Chris Kastelan said.
“Infrastructure is failing with many buildings both in Metropolitan areas and rural areas not being safe nor fit for purpose with paramedics reporting significant building defects that have gone unrepaired in some instances many years.
“The recently announced increase in paramedics numbers to be rolled out across the state during four years show a state of affairs where strategic paramedic resourcing has failed the community.”
Mr Kastelan said that clinical training officers in the field across the state were “as rare as hens teeth”, causing paramedics much angst.
“Training and clinical skills updates are being postponed with little notice,” he said.
“Particular areas such as the Murrumbidgee zone highlight the poor planning for the future that has taken place in the past and as yet, we are unsure on whether this will improve with current strategies.”
He said APANSW believed the only way forward was for a “total rethink on rostering, case dispatching, paramedic numbers, infrastructure planning, skill set consolidation, clinical training and paramedic conditions with paramedic retention as key areas where NSWA can improve”.
Commitment a top priority: NSW Ambulance
In response, NSW Ambulance said the Government’s commitment to providing resources was a top priority.
“The NSW Government’s recent budget announcement included a record investment of more than $1 billion into NSW Ambulance for 2018–19,” the spokesperson said.
“The NSW Government has also committed to delivering an unprecedented workforce boost of 700 paramedics and 50 call centre staff over four years.”
“Health Minister Brad Hazzard also announced Wagga Wagga will receive a record boost to its paramedic numbers with 12 new recruits to be trained and on the road within six months to strengthen frontline services which are inclusive of the 700 announcement – swelling the ranks of local paramedics from 28 to 40.
“The additional staff will assist with staff safety, reduce paramedic fatigue and assist in keeping pace with the growing demand for our service.”
Across the state, the report shows that there were more than 282,000 ambulance responses during the quarter (up 2.9pc).
Of those responses, nearly 126,000 were emergencies.
The number of emergency responses for which an ambulance arrived within 15 minutes of a triple zero call being received was 62.3pc, down 1.4 percentage points.
Of those emergency responses, more than 5,800 (up 6.1pc) were for the highest priority, life-threatening cases.
Paramedics reached 72.7pc of these cases within 10 minutes (down 0.1 percentage points), although nine in ten were reached in less than 15 minutes.
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