I support this petition, which calls out the fact that New South Wales paramedics are the lowest paid in the country and how this is affecting performance as well as their mental health and causing a churn. We have seen pay increases for other essential services workers, so why not our paramedics too? This is not only a moral issue of adequately valuing the crucial work that paramedics do but also a real quality-of-service issue, as we risk brain drain. With the rates of pay so much lower than in other States, we are losing precious human capital and skilled workers across health sectors and our borders.
Today I speak on behalf of paramedics, both locally and across the State, some of whom I even get to call "mate". I thank the Minister for Health for what he is doing across the Health portfolio to address the numerous issues that he inherited. It is noted and appreciated by many I speak to. I am also aware that things take time and the Minister has to step through each issue carefully, prioritise and so on. I know from personal conversations with the Minister that he values paramedics as much as he values nurses, but this issue is dragging on. Pay rates have already been mentioned, so I will speak to the minimum operating levels. I am sure members will be as shocked as I was when I heard this firsthand example from the northern beaches. I have this person's permission to read this word for word, as written by them. They stated:
Current practice, is to staff accordingly, to an outdated Minimum Operating Level (MOL) i.e. lowest number of ambulance crews per shift as applied across a given area. This level does not include the staffing enhancements of the past several years. Resources at MOL across the zones, are far below adequate for current population density. What this means in real terms is that the enhancements approved and paid for by the people of NSW, are not being maintained. ANSW is applying the outdated and inadequate coverage of ambulance crews at MOL to be the current level.
This MOL used to be applied per zone. If a certain zone was below MOL, sector management would source overtime to back fill the vacancies. However current practice is MOL is applied Metro wide with disregard to location - with dire consequence.
True scenario 1.
Northern Sydney zone was down 3 cars on a particular night some months ago. There were no crews at Balgowlah (IC or GD)—
that is intensive care or general duty—
and only 1 crew at Narrabeen (the IC car). Both are double module stations which cover a huge area. The nearest station to these after midnight are Artarmon, Belrose and St Ives to the west, and Avalon to the North. If you draw a line on a map linking these stations that leaves a massive responsibility for one paramedic crew to manage. Once that crew has a job there is no other local resources available. The service deemed it appropriate as they were over the outdated MOL metro wide. Due to enhancements, there was enough resources to send 3 cars from the Sydney west sector to cover the shift. The workload in the west, however, was as usual, extremely high meaning the 3 promised cars never made it out of the west at all. They never appeared on the north board.
And so it happened on this particular night, a local resident suffered a critic rupture of a renal dialysis fistula with no ambulances available, the only available solution was for a manager in a marked ANSW passenger car to attend (not designed to carry a patient) no stretcher and no care possible during transport. This manager's only recourse was to apply a tourniquet and rush the unfortunate individual in the front seat to NBH. It is incomprehensible should something else catastrophic happen simultaneously fortunately or as luck would have it, as far as I am aware whilst there were some very long waits for ambulances and some people just drove themselves, there was no other adverse event. This this situation is not uncommon.
True scenario 2.
Friday night shift commencing 6 October. Northern Sydney zone was 1.5 under MOL meaning 1 and a half ambulances (3 paramedics). I, personally, was left to operate single in the IC car at St Ives. This was deemed acceptable because the service was 1.5 ambulances over the MOL at Liverpool and Penrith.
Early in the morning, a serious car accident occurred on the Beaches. What ensued was tragic, resulting in one loss of life and critical injuries to 4 others. Paramedics and medical teams worked feverishly in the attempt to save that boy. Many resources were deployed to manage the scene, including me as a single operator. I was tasked to work alone with a patient with serious injuries, aided by F+R NSW personnel as there were no other paramedics available. Thus, plans were made for F+R NSW personnel to drive my ambulance while I treated in the back, however, eventually another paramedic became available and was tasked to drive for me. On completion of this incident, I returned to St Ives to continue my shift as a single operator, and the zone remained under-resourced by minus 1.5 ambulances.
Minister, I would be shocked if you did not have bipartisan support on this issue. I will happily volunteer with my crossbench colleagues to make that happen. This is a critical issue. The number one State should have the number one paid professionals working for it. Let us make this happen.