Ambulance. Emergency Services. September 2017
Ambulance. Emergency Services. September 2017 Bev Lacey

Concern over paramedic rosters in Maclean

NSW AMBULANCE has hit back at claims made by the Australian Paramedics Association that roster changes have created a "black hole effect" for Maclean.

Last week the APA said a dispute over new rosters had had a worrying impact on ambulance response times in Maclean, with at least five critical 000 calls forced to wait too long for treatment in recent months because of the lack of local ambulance resources.

However, a NSW Ambulance spokesman said the service was unaware of any incidents or adverse outcomes due to roster changes in recent months where critically injured patients or patients suffering life-threatening medical emergencies had had to wait due to a delayed ambulance.

APA NSW secretary Steve Pearce said NSW Ambulance had appointed seven additional staff to Maclean but changed the rosters to implement a dedicated night shift instead of using local paramedics "on call", just to save money, with the night-shift ambulance called on to do long cases out of town - leaving Maclean empty of paramedics.

Mr Pearce said the problem created a "black hole effect" as ambulances from Evans Head, Grafton, Yamba, Lismore and Ballina were pulled in to respond to Maclean emergencies, causing delays for patients who called for help.

"The effect of the roster change means while there are now 12 paramedics at Maclean, there are only two paramedics working on day shift and no on-call paramedics to call upon when workload spikes," he said. "Front-line service delivery to the public is suffering as a result."

NSW Ambulance responded, with a spokesman saying the increase in staff and corresponding reduction in fatigue by not requiring paramedics to respond to emergencies from home when they completed duty shifts, was very much in the interests of both the paramedics and the Maclean community.

"NSW Ambulance is committed to ensuring that Maclean and surrounding communities have timely access to paramedic care in the case of a medical emergency," the spokesman said.

"In May this year an additional seven paramedics were assigned to Maclean, more than doubling the workforce and bringing the total number of staff to 12."

APA delegate Mark Young said a roster proposed by the union would make more paramedics available during the day and early evening.

"Paramedics are well aware that patient survival is affected the longer they are left untreated," Mr Young said.

The NSW Ambulance spokesman said, during the worst winter flu season on record, the additional staff at Maclean meant ambulance response times were only mildly affected, despite the highest number of incidents ever reported.

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