Time for life-saving changes for paramedics

What will it take for the powers-that-be to realise you can’t put a price on life? Unfortunately this is what seems to be happening with the roster allowance for ambulance sevices in the region.

The shift allocations for the Southern Highlands currently sits at two morning shifts (one starting at 7am and one starting at 8am), one afternoon shift starting at 11am and one night shift starting at 7pm. Each of these shifts cover 12 hours with periods of overlapping shifts.

In 2015 the Bowral station received an increase in staff allocation, but no increase in cars. Effectively seven additional staff were put on the Highlands roster to reduce the potential of fatigue for staff who were working normal shift and on-call between shifts. At first glance it could appear that things were on the improve. 

But at the same time minimum deployment levels weren’t increased across the region which resulted in the possibility of the afternoon team being deployed to other parts of the South West Area Health region such as Campbelltown and even the Illawarra. This has meant there is no guarantee of the afternoon shift being maintained in the Highlands.

The reality is that the extra staff do not amount to more availability of paramedics if there are no more cars available. Meanwhile, the sharing of the afternoon shift throughout the South West Area Health region means there is no guarantee that an afternoon shift vehicle will even be available to people of the Highlandsin an emergency situation.

This is a community bounded by two major highways (the Hume and the Illawarra Highway), three key mountainous roads (Barrengary, Jamberoo and Macquarrie pass), and a population which has passed 49,000 people according to the Bureau of Statistics. 

The question is “are there enough ambulance shifts rostered specifically to cater for the demand of this community?” The best people to answer that question are the paramedics themselves. And they are crying out for something more.

They are not asking for much. They accept the staffing levels, they even accept the number of vehicles on the road during each shift.  All they want is a guarentee that the afternoon shift is maintained in the Southern Highlands and not deployed to another area of the health district. It is time for the number crunchers to pay attention before someone dies. 

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