Ambulance brawl over volunteers threatens to get bloody
A FIGHT over an ambulance station in a tiny NSW town is about to spread across the state, after furious paramedics are ready to enforce work bans.
After years of lobbying the state government for an ambulance station, the residents of Coolamon, about 40km northwest of Wagga Wagga, were granted their wish with a $1.5 million building to be completed in September. But the usual contingent of five paramedics will be reduced to three, with the remaining positions filled by unpaid volunteers.
While the volunteers will have firstaid training, Australian Paramedic Association NSW president Steve Pearce said they did not have the necessary skills to ensure the safety of patients.
He said paramedics were concerned the staffing model would set a precedent for future stations, with an increasing reliance on volunteers. “I’ve been on a job where a volunteer has frozen at the scene, because they were not able to deal with the situation,” Mr Pearce said.
The union is discussion imposing statewide work bans, including a refusal to take billing details of patients unless the state government backs down.
NSW Ambulance Chief Superintendent Alex Cardenas said the staffing model was based on Coolamon Shire which had less than one patient medical call out per day. However, the service would continue to engage with the paramedic unions over the issue, he said.
“The staffing enhancement of three paramedics plus NSW Ambulance trained and qualified Volunteer Ambulance Officers is a significant improvement as there have never been ambulance services in Coolamon,” he said.