Am­bu­lance re­view open for com­ment

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

Feed­back is sought on the promised re­view of coun­try am­bu­lance ser­vices which seeks to ad­dress long-stand­ing con­cerns about the health of vol­un­teer paramedics.

The re­view was promised prior to La­bor tak­ing power last year, af­ter WA Gov­ern­ment re­views — in­clud­ing a re­port by WA’s chief psy­chi­a­trist — found un­ac­cept­able stress con­trib­uted to the sui­cides of paid and vol­un­teer of­fi­cers.

Health Min­is­ter Roger Cook said the re­view recog­nised the cru­cial role of am­bu­lance vol­un­teers, who kept ser­vices run­ning in re­gional WA and had a higher work­load than vol­un­teers in any other State.

The draft re­view rec­om­mends more in­vest­ment in com­mu­nity paramedics, work­ing harder to re­tain vol­un­teers, and im­prov­ing con­sis­tency of re­sponse times in re­gional cen­tres. In­creased use of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy was also rec­om­mended.

“Peo­ple who live in coun­try WA have a right to ex­pect on­go­ing, sus­tain­able in­vest­ment in their am­bu­lance ser­vices de­spite the sig­nif­i­cant geo­graph­i­cal chal­lenges pre­sented by our vast and re­mote State,” Mr Cook said.

“The re­port iden­ti­fies tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ties for us to in­vest in tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, to im­prove ser­vice re­sponse times, to build on the strengths of our le­gion of com­mu­nity am­bu­lance vol­un­teers, and to in­crease the num­ber of com­mu­nity paramedics where they can be of most use.”

The Mar­garet River sub-cen­tre has one paid para­medic, while Au­gusta and the rest of the shire de­pend on vol­un­teers (see re­port).

The work­load of age­ing vol­un­teers was one of the key is­sues flagged in 2016 when South West La­bor MLC Adele Fa­rina crit­i­cised St John Am­bu­lance.

Vasse MLA Libby Met­tam said the re­view needed to ad­dress worker stress lev­els, and more paid para­medic po­si­tions for the Capes re­gion would help.

“It is vi­tal that there is struc­ture and sup­port put in place to en­sure the men­tal and phys­i­cal well­be­ing of the staff of St John Am­bu­lance,” she said.

“Whilst the spe­cific con­cerns of bul­ly­ing haven’t been raised di­rectly with me, I would hope that this in­quiry pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for peo­ple to speak up re­gard­ing is­sues in this work­place.”

WA Coun­try Health Ser­vices board chair­man Neale Fong said the draft “out­lines the nec­es­sary foun­da­tions for en­sur­ing safe and sus­tain­able am­bu­lance ser­vices for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions”.

Pub­lic com­ment closes on De­cem­ber 10.

■ If you or some­one you know is think­ing of sui­cide, phone Life­line on 13 11 14.

Roger Cook, right, dis­cusses beach safety with met­ro­pol­i­tan St John area man­ager Bren­dan Saich, Rick Ger­ring, and Fish­eries Min­is­ter Dave Kelly.

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