Wagga patients are being forced to wait longer for ambulances to arrive and the Australian Paramedic Association says the delays cannot be blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quarterly statistics released this week by the Bureau of Health Information reveal the median response time to priority emergencies for Wagga ambulances has hit a 12-year high of 13 minutes.
However, wait times for the highest priority, life-threatening cases remain unchanged at eight minutes.
In other news:
Ambulance wait times for urgent cases have also risen two minutes on average to a 12-year high of 18 minutes.
In a glimmer of good news, all Wagga ambulance response times were below the state average.
Despite that, APA delegate and Gundagai paramedic Gary Wilson said response times "have been consistently rising across the board for over a decade".
"The simple facts are if our high priority jobs are increasing, our low priority jobs increase even further because they won't send us to those if there's still high priority jobs outstanding," Mr Wilson said.
"The impact on Wagga is the same as everywhere else.
"If ambulances are stuck at Wagga, patients that need us have to wait longer and potentially have to wait for a crew to come in from a hospital or even from one of the surrounding stations.
"For example, I've responded from Gundagai to a chest pain in Wagga.
"People shouldn't have to wait an hour for an ambulance in Wagga if they're having a heart attack."
The BHI data comes hot on the heels of the Perrottet government's plan to roll out an extra 10,000 health jobs across the state in the next four years.
The announcement included $1.76 billion for paramedics, with a commitment to open 30 more ambulance stations and provide 1856 more paramedics.
Mr Wilson welcomed the announcement, but said the devil is in the detail.
"It will be very difficult to implement and we are concerned there won't be funding for the associated support services and equipment," he said.
"We already don't have enough vehicles and if you're adding in another 1856 paramedics, you definitely need more of those. You also need more trainers, more support staff and more people in control centres."
However, NSW Ambulance disagreed with the assertion COVID was not the real reason for the increase in response times.
"The very high demand for paramedics was driven largely by the Omicron wave of COVID-19 and the return of the normal paramedic workload in the community with an increase in car accidents, assaults, falls and other activity related call outs," a NSW Ambulance spokesman said. "We acknowledge and thank our staff for their incredible efforts to keep the community safe and deliver high quality care to our community during one of the most challenging periods of the pandemic.
"NSW Ambulance had a total of 326,544 responses in the January to March quarter and of those responses, 9360 were triaged as immediately life-threatening medical emergencies, which is a record high."
The NSW Ambulance spokesman said despite the increase in demand, the median response time for the most urgent cases was 8.8 minutes and stressed this is still "within the 10-minute benchmark".
"Throughout this period NSW Ambulance continued to surge its workforce with 346 permanent graduate paramedics trained and deployed since the start of the year," he said.
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