Paramedics association warns of plans to deploy students
NSW Ambulance (NSWA) has announced a plan to temporarily introduce paramedic students to out-of-hospital emergencies. The proposal has raised concerns from the NSW Australian Paramedics Association — APA (NSW) — which has significant concerns for the safety of patients, paramedics and university students.
Under the proposal from NSWA, 250 second- and third-year paramedic students would be hired on a casual basis to fill unplanned vacancies following completion of a brief induction course.
“This proposal poses a substantial and avoidable risk to public safety,” APA (NSW) Acting Secretary and operational paramedic Liu Bianchi said.
“These students would not be permitted to drive an ambulance under ‘lights and sirens’ and would not be able to treat patients unsupervised.”
When an ambulance crew is responding to the most urgent emergencies, such as heart attacks, respiratory arrests and strokes, the student paramedic would not be able to drive ‘lights and sirens’ to hospital and would likely be attempting to treat the patient while the supervising paramedic drove.
“We understand that this is an unprecedented crisis, but NSWA will be placing paramedics under extreme pressure with this strategy. It will cause far more harm than any perceived benefit,” Bianchi said.
“This is an irresponsible and ill-thought-out plan from NSW Ambulance. Rash workforce planning is only made necessary through a systemic failure to use ambulance resources appropriately.”
APA (NSW) members report that they are being sent to non-urgent potential and confirmed COVID-19 patients in order to transport them to hospital. On multiple occasions, they have arrived to find the patient well enough to stay home.
Some of the burden on ambulance resources could be addressed by appropriately triaging patients who call 000. Bureau of Health Information data from last quarter (October to December 2019) showed that only 45.3% of jobs attended by ambulances were categorised as emergencies.
Appropriate triaging of patients who call 000 is said to be imperative to prevent vital ambulance resources being used to unnecessarily transport patients to overflowing emergency departments that are already stretched beyond capacity.
“NSW Ambulance needs to go back to the drawing board. This is a disaster waiting to happen,” Bianchi said.
“As long as paramedics are continually and constantly tasked with non-urgent work, NSW Health will be putting the public at risk. The COVID-19 pandemic has made this clearer than ever.”
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