An additional 30 paramedic positions could hit northern NSW.
An additional 30 paramedic positions could hit northern NSW. Frank Redward

Thirty ambos to fill shortage

AN additional 30 paramedic positions could hit northern NSW in response to staff shortages and extended response times across Tweed and the Northern Rivers, but the NSW Ambulance Service is staying tight-lipped about any new staff.

Sources within the Health Services Union (HSU) have leaked information suggesting the new paramedics could be employed on a casual basis and stationed with 24-hour crews.

But a NSW Ambulance Service spokeswoman said the information was a "rumour" and there would be no extra staff allocated for the area.

The "rumour" comes after a lengthy list of cases where paramedics have taken too long to respond to 000 calls, in some instances more than two hours.

The union has blamed the delays on staff shortages and blatant cost-cutting by the NSW Ambulance Service.

Most recently, a patient in Chinderah suffering an epileptic fit in a caravan park on October 12 waited 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive from Tweed Heads when an on-call officer was at home in Kingscliff just five minutes away, but was not contacted.

In August a man suffering a cardiac arrest in Murwillumbah died before an ambulance arrived 27 minutes later.

In June an 87-year-old patient with Parkinson's disease, who had fallen to the floor in a Tweed Heads home, waited 85 minutes for an ambulance.

A fire brigade attended in its absence and moved the patient to a lounge chair before a medical examination could be completed.

The extended response times have prompted paramedics to threaten industrial action if staff numbers were not boosted as a matter of urgency.

HSU East divisional secretary Gerard Hayes said the union had written to the NSW Health Minister to address the issue, but was yet to receive a response.

"This is unacceptable," Mr Hayes said.

"The community deserves better. This total lack of staff is putting lives at risk. Something needs to be done immediately."

Mr Hayes said in some remote areas of the state there were no staff to cover officers on leave or rostered days off, leaving periods of 24 hours with no ambulance coverage.

Kept waiting

  • October 12 Chinderah. Patient suffering epileptic fit. Wait: 20 minutes.
  • October 9 Ocean Shores. Unconscious patient. Wait: 25 minutes.
  • October 7 strong mBallina. Patient collapses. Wait: 1 hour, 57 minutes.
  • September 30 Tyalgum. Patient falls over and is unable to move. Wait: 1 hour, 15 minutes.
  • September 24 Maclean. Patient in car crash. Later dies Wait for helicopter: 30 minutes.
  • August 17 Murwillumbah. Patient suffering cardiac arrest. Dies at scene. Wait: 29 minutes.
  • June 19 Tweed Heads. Parkinson's patient falls to floor. Wait: 1 hour, 19 minutes.