Ambulances now chasing deadlines
Paramedics cop tighter turnaround
PARAMEDICS are being put under pressure to spend just 20 minutes completing medical records, restocking and sterilising equipment and cleaning the ambulance in between patients.
The Health Services Union has voiced concerns about patient safety after NSW Ambulance put out a directive to staff warning them they needed to notify a Control Centre if they spent more than 15 minutes on “off stretcher” time.
The memo states the KPI for off-stretcher time is just 20 minutes.
“Off stretcher” refers to the time paramedics have in between patients during which they clean the ambulance, sterilise equipment and complete electronic medical records.
Paramedics told The Saturday Telegraph they had seen colleagues burst into tears trying to meet the deadlines.
NSW HSU Secretary Gerard Hayes said paramedics had previously been given 30 minutes to complete these tasks.
“It’s dangerous when you do what is called a Code 2, which is a cardiac arrest, you’re dealing with a range of drugs, defibrillation … you’ve got a whole range of equipment that you’ve got to sterilise and you’ve got a medical electronic record which you have to make sure is absolutely accurate,” Mr Hayes said.
“Paramedics are not sitting around in emergency departments trying to watch the cricket.
“Trying to cut things down and cut corners is going to produce poorer patients’ outcomes.”
Mr Hayes said he was encouraging his members to ignore the directive. The campaign against it is called “take five to survive”.
Paramedic and HSU NSW delegate Rob Harris told The Saturday Telegraph the directive was unreasonable and putting workers under pressure.
“As a frontline paramedic I’m under extreme pressure. When I did have half an hour that was hard enough but 20 minutes is just unrealistic,” Mr Harris said.
“I had another paramedic crying the other day over this … you have to restock medicine, deal with very sensitive medical information and often clean vomit.”
However a NSW Ambulance spokeswoman said the target had been in place for some time.
“For a number of years the make ready time at hospitals has had a target of 20 minutes,” she said.
“NSW Ambulance has recently clarified with the workforce that there may be cases where additional time may be required to satisfactorily complete duties.” NSW Ambulance said it remained happy to meet with the union to clarify the issue.
Paramedic Rob Harris says cutting corners will produce poorer outcomes for patients. Picture: Tim Hunter