State Member for Wallsend, Ms Sonia Hornery MP, will today debate a Notice of Motion calling on the NSW Health Minister to review the minimum operating levels and employ more paramedics across the Hunter.
The Motion notes that New South Wales has the second slowest paramedic response times across Australia for Code One Incidents and that ambulance services in the Hunter Region are running at or above capacity, particularly on weekends.
NSW Ambulance are currently operating with staffing numbers that have not kept pace with the population growth. Minimum operating levels have not been increased since 2010 and as a result, short term unplanned absences are not being covered, which is leaving staff fatigued as they are required to work long shifts or stations are simply closed down and staff moved to another station.
Fewer ambulances in rotation and overworked paramedics have led to longer response times and this is putting patients’ lives at risk.
“When I learned that a nursing home patient with a broken hip waited six hours for an ambulance to arrive due to extensive delays, I was shocked,” said Ms Hornery.
“In 2019, the Minister for Health announced an extra 750 paramedics and call centre staff would be employed over four years, but so far, the number of new paramedics employed across the Hunter has not kept pace with the numbers of paramedics deciding to leave the industry.
“It is clear that this Government is not properly funding the extra staff because each time a paramedic goes on unplanned leave, which happens often, as injuries remain sky-high among NSW Ambulance workers, there is no money to call in a replacement.
“This leaves the community down close to one ambulance for every injured or sick paramedic each shift.
“Ambulances in the Hunter are running at or above capacity at the best of times, and on weekends the situation gets worse.
“On a typical Friday night in the Lower Hunter, only nine cars are working to service a vast area and population.
“Paramedics are telling me that they are being stretched to breaking point, with many staff working multiple overtime shifts per week or being sent to cover staff shortages in other regions. On one recent occasion, paramedics from Newcastle were sent to the Central Coast to complete extra work after they had completed their exhausting twelve hour shift.
“I call on the Health Minister to review minimum operating levels and employ paramedics. It’s what’s best for our paramedics and for the health of our community,” Ms Hornery said.