State Member for Wallsend, Ms Sonia Hornery MP, has called on the Minister for Health to immediately implement the new Minimum Operating Levels for the Hunter after a number of stations were closed and ambulances taken off the road last night.
Ms Hornery received messages from concerned local paramedics late yesterday after it was discovered that local stations were 10 staff short on their rosters, pulling five ambulances off the road and closing local stations at Beresfield and Stockton and leaving the stations at Hamilton and Nelson Bay with only one crew.
Paramedics recently won a case in the Industrial Relations Commission that will see Minimum Operating Levels increased for the first time in 10 years and putting an additional 77 ambulances on the road each week, but this will not be implemented until 2 June.
“The shortages last night were due to not enough permanent staff being employed by the NSW ambulance Service,” Ms Hornery said.
“The current staff are being rostered for multiple overtime shifts each week and are being left exhausted, having to cover staff on sick leave, maternity leave, annual leave and workers compensation.
“When stations are closed, local lives are put at risk. Any paramedic will tell you time is of the essence when it comes to heart attack victims, with 10% of the heart dying every two minutes without treatment.
“Crews are being dragged from other parts of the lower Hunter to cover areas when stations are closed.
“Last year a young woman died in Beresfield after suffering an anaphylaxis attack, because the crews from the local station had been dragged away from the area to cover a gap and a crew from Rutherford had to attend this job, which took 25 minutes.
“If Beresfield paramedics were in their own area, or there were more local paramedics available, workers tell me that woman would still be alive today.
“Another patient recently passed away in Tarro from a massive heart attack while the local Beresfield crew was sent to Raymond Terrace to cover a gap.
“The Minister for Health needs to put the new Minimum Operating Levels in place now so that we don’t end up with stations being closed or left drastically under staffed.
“People are dying as a result and this must change and change now,” said Ms Hornery.