The median Tasmanian ambulance response time of 14.1 minutes is the worst in the country. It’s far too long for people who need critical life support.
The national recommended response time is eight minutes, with people suffering cardiac arrest or choking unable to be resuscitated after 10. Paramedics have pleaded with the government for extra staff and resources to be able to attend to emergencies faster.
The Australian Paramedics Association describes the system as at breaking point and needing an estimated $12 million fix. Despite this, the Health Minister, Michael Ferguson has already refused to allocate any funds towards ambulance staff in the Budget.
APA members met with Minister Ferguson five weeks ago to ask for additional resources in the health budget, and his response was a firm ‘no’. They have not had a response from him since.
More than 40% of the 51 stations in Tasmania are staffed by volunteers, and increasingly shifts cannot be filled. Without salaried paramedics on shift, ambulances take longer to reach people who are in life-threatening situations.
Only a small proportion of recommendations from the 2010 Ambulance Tasmania review have been acted on, and none of the more than recommended extra 100 salaried paramedics have been employed. Since then, ambulance call outs have increased, volunteer numbers have dropped, and ramping at hospitals is worse than ever.
The system has been struggling for seven years on the goodwill and generosity of volunteers and salaried staff, who work long hours in stressful situations. At the State Operation Centre, a single staff member works 96 hour shifts, in the office and then on-call, to manage more than 400 staff and volunteers.
The Liberals have been throwing around pre-Budget commitments, some of which look a lot like electioneering. Tasmanians would be appalled if Ambulance Tasmania’s needs, frontline life-or-death services, are not included in the State Budget.
Ambulance Tasmania staff are the first responders at accidents, and when lives are in danger. They are a bedrock for every Tasmanian, regardless of status, income or age.
The Health Minister still has time to change his mind. We hope next week’s State Budget will recognise that the funding for salaried paramedics is a priority spend, not an optional extra.