Paramedics to walk off job over cuts

Paramedics to walk off job over cuts

FIRST ON 7: The Health Services Union is threatening strike action if the State Government pushes ahead with plans for single-crew ambulances.

It's meant to improve efficiency but paramedics say they can't drive and look after patients at the same time.

Greg Bruce is a 24-year veteran of the ambulance service and he's seen plenty of changes, but none has worried him more than the latest proposal.

"It's not about better patient care, it's just trying to hide the fact we don't have enough crews to manage the workload," the Ambulance Union representative Greg Bruce said.

The ambulance service is looking to increase the use of single officer transport, sending paramedics out on their own, to transfer what it calls "low acuity" or low risk patients.

"There's no 'low acuity' patients. Anyone who calls an ambulance, they call it because it's an emergency," the HSU’s Gerard Hayes said.

A draft policy says "this initiative is a definitive demand management strategy”, which has doctors worried.

"We don't want to use ambulance officers as taxi drivers. we want them to be there to look after the patients," the Australian Medical Associations Professor Brian Owler said.

Paramedics believe the changes are an admission that the system is struggling to cope, and they fear the big losers will be patients.

"We will not rule out widespread industrial action if this is not removed," the HSU’s Gerard Hayes said.

The New South Wales Health Minister released a statement confirming the rollout is being considered.

But while she was in opposition, Jillian Skinner was scathing of the former government's plans for single crew ambulances.

She says this is different, but the opposition isn’t convinced.

"Taking shortcuts like this with patient safety is just dangerous, and certainly things will go wrong," Shadow Health Minister Dr Andrew McDonald said.