‘’Bums on seats’’ not new buildings – that’s what Wollongong paramedic Rod Hatton and his colleagues wanted from the state budget.
However the senior intensive care paramedic said the 2017-18 budget failed to boost the region’s paramedic coverage to a safe, and sustainable, level.
Mr Hatton, a Health Services Union member, said the region needed at least 42 additional paramedics to cater for the region’s burgeoning population – and more ambulances on the road.
‘’There are just seven ambulances on at night in our area, from Helensburgh to Kiama,’’ he said. ‘’And only 13 ambulances serving the region during the day.
‘’We’ve been calling out for more paramedics for 20 years – existing on minimum operating levels just isn’t adequate. You’ve got paramedics who are overworked, stressed and fatigued – some working 48 hours straight.
‘’So while we welcome funding in the budget for construction on ambulance stations at Berry and Kiama and other measures, we really need bums and seats and cars in service rather than buildings.’’
HSU NSW secretary Gerard Hayes said with such healthy revenue from the property boom, the state government should have invested in paramedics for the region.
‘’Sadly, they have failed the test,’’ Mr Hayes said. ‘’Paramedics work under extraordinary pressure and do the very best they can. But the Illawarra is growing quickly. It’s unfair to put paramedics under this pressure.
‘’It’s also unfair to the Illawarra community, which deserves to know that there are enough paramedics on the road to reach them quickly in times of emergency.
‘’Unfortunately, (the) budget mean response times will keep blowing out, especially around weekends and in winter.’’
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said nearly $1 billion had been allocated for ambulance services in the 2017-18 budget – including 50 relief paramedics for rural and remote areas.
The Illawarra would benefit from an investment of $35 million for the Rural Ambulance Infrastructure Reconfiguration program, which will enable construction to start on the two South Coast ambulance stations.
The region’s patients would also benefit from the $30 million to fund the NSW Ambulance Helicopter Retrieval Network Service to operate 24/7 at several locations including Wollongong.
Meantime local paramedics would be helped by the $10 million spend on health and safety measures, and upgrades to IT systems.
‘’The NSW Government is committed to supporting our skilled and hardworking paramedics to continue delivering exceptional care to patients across the state,’’ Ms Berejiklian said.