A $4 million cut to the state's ambulance service staffing budget would lead to a blowout in response times and put patient safety at risk, Wollongong MP Noreen Hay said yesterday.
"NSW Ambulance Service budget documents show proposed cuts of $4.04 million this year under the O'Farrell government's labour expense cap," Ms Hay said.
"Trolley block is already a regular occurrence at Wollongong emergency department, with paramedics having to wait hours with patients on trolleys lining the corridors," she said.
"This cost-cutting policy is dangerous and will ultimately place our paramedics under more stress, stretching them thinner and thinner across the Illawarra and in fact the whole of NSW."
Ms Hay said the proposed funding cuts gave a "frightening insight" into why the government was looking to expand the use of the first responder program, in which firefighters would replace paramedics at emergencies.
"I have already condemned the blatant disrespect shown for the skills and dedication of NSW firefighters and ambulance officers, and we have recently seen concerns raised by local firefighters in relation to insufficient staffing and resources with Wollongong fire stations having to close at various times," she said.
"Paramedics have taken unprecedented industrial action in relation to roster changes that would have them fatigued and potentially increasing danger for themselves and our communities.
"Now we have the NSW government's plan for firefighters to step in for ambulance officers as the O'Farrell government fails to manage the shortfall."
The Ambulance Service of NSW said yesterday it would not reduce any frontline positions in order to meet the labour expense cap.
"In fact, an additional 10 paramedic positions have been created out of a restructure of non-paramedic roles," a spokesman said.
The budget is $678.9 million in 2012-13 - an increase of $15.1 million or 2.3 per cent over the previous year.
"It is not correct to assume that the whole-of-government labour expense cap will result in job losses at NSW Ambulance. Savings . . . may include . . . less reliance on contractors and unnecessary expensive labour costs."
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