• Jenny Aitchison

Health Services Amendment (Paramedics) Bill 2015


My support of the Health Services Amendment (Paramedics) Bill 2015, which will make it an offence for a person to use the title "paramedic" if they do not hold the required qualifications. It is essential for anyone who calls themselves a paramedic to be a trained, qualified paramedic.

I support the Health Services Amendment (Paramedics) Bill 2015, which will make it an offence for a person to use the title "paramedic" if they do not hold the required qualifications. It is essential for anyone who calls themselves a paramedic to be a trained, qualified paramedic. Our paramedics need the support of our legislation and Government. They also need our gratitude for the important work they do. But, ultimately, this amendment is symbolic. Although the bill supports paramedics by respecting their training and qualifications by making it illegal to pretend to be one, I find myself longing for another amendment that would make it illegal for someone to pretend to be a Minister for Health without actually delivering any services. I believe anyone who calls themselves the Minister for Health should show commitment and keep promises about building desperately needed hospitals and ambulance stations. Mr Gareth Ward: Point of order: Attacks on members must be done by way of substantive motion. The member for Maitland is impugning the motives of the Minister for Health by suggesting that she has not delivered on her promises, which is not true. I ask you to draw her back to the leave of the bill. ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! I remind members that if they wish to attack any Minister or member of this place they should do so by way of substantive motion and not in the course of debating legislation. Ms JENNY AITCHISON: The Government has stripped so many resources from paramedics that many people believe it is now faster for them to make their own way to hospital. Worse still, people who make their own way to hospital often find a lack of beds when they get there. On 7 March 2013 at 5.30 a.m. Michael Johnson of Rutherford called an ambulance for his wife, Paula, who was in her sixties. She had awoken with severe dizziness and vomiting. They were unable to get an ambulance to come to them and so Mr Johnson, who had a broken foot, was forced to drive his wife to the hospital, where she was rushed to the emergency department and underwent five hours of tests and treatment. How dangerous was it for an injured man in his sixties to drive his wife, who had symptoms that could have been indicative of stroke, to the hospital? It is disgraceful. Why would someone be forced to do that? The answer is clear: There are not enough paramedics—not even in name only—and when people get to hospital there are not enough beds. Across New South Wales health resources are stretched beyond belief. In response to public need, paramedics are working on their days off to fill gaps in rosters and doing long hours of overtime. Maitland Hospital was declared code red over the most recent Christmas period yet in 4½ years the Government has not added one bed to that hospital. When Mr Johnson arrived at the hospital early on that morning in 2013 he was told there was only one ambulance crew working in Maitland—from Rutherford—that night. At the time there were no plans to increase staffing levels. A survey then undertaken by the Maitland Mercury indicated that approximately 93 per cent of people in my electorate believe ambulance services in and around Maitland are inadequate for our population. The Government said at the time that it did not intend to increase the capacity of our Ambulance Service to employ more paramedics. However, it has since bowed to community pressure and finally agreed to look at building a second local ambulance station. During the recent election campaign the Government committed to build this station and provided the costings. But we cannot find a line item in the budget papers that aligns with that commitment or meets that need. I have requested a briefing from the Minister's office on this and other health issues in my electorate but I have received no response. A new hospital and a new ambulance station are needed desperately in my electorate. They have been promised but not delivered. All we get are the Minister’s media releases, lip-service and promises of planning but no action. She takes no action; she is Minister in name only. Maitland has been promised this new hospital for five years. I remind those opposite that during those same five years the electorate was represented by a member of the Liberal Party. In Labor's last term of office a $10 million upgrade to the Maitland Hospital emergency department was undertaken and that funding delivered 13 new treatment spaces, 12 new beds and 300 jobs during the construction phase. So far this Government has promised us an incredible shrinking hospital. It has ranged in size from being a John Hunter Hospital of 630 beds to a tertiary hospital of 550 beds, including a teaching function. It was to be an additional resource to Maitland Hospital's existing 188 beds. The best-case scenario was that potential bed numbers in my community would increase to 820. That is a great idea for a community that grows by an extra five people every day. Unfortunately, it has remained just that: an idea. During community consultations in early 2014 the Government promised everything: a blank cheque and whatever services people wanted. Then we received the sad news during the November consultations—I note that these were held after the former member for Maitland advised that she would no longer— Mr Michael Johnsen: Point of order: If the member for Maitland knows her standing orders she will also know that her comments are completely irrelevant to the bill before the House. ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! Is the member for Upper Hunter drawing my attention to Standing Order 76? Mr Michael Johnsen: I ask that you draw the member for Maitland back to the leave of the bill. ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! The member for Maitland will resume her seat. Yesterday I was in the chair when the House was considering this bill and I reminded members of Standing Order 76 and previous rulings by Speakers Kelly and Rozzoli in relation to members confining their remarks to the leave of the bill and its potential implications. They can be found in and are derived from the short title of the bill. The bill is very specific: It is about paramedics and their title. Previous occupants of the chair have granted latitude to members during debate, but the general proviso is that members relate their remarks to the bill. I remind members of that practice. Members should not exceed the latitude that has been extended by me and by other occupants of the chair. Ms JENNY AITCHISON: I point out the inability to apply the definitions in a way that produces outcomes in the community. We must recognise that paramedics are highly qualified, and we should treat them as such. That is the point of the bill. We should ensure that promises about health deliver good outcomes for our community. The bed block at Maitland Hospital impacts on our ambulance services. The hospital will now be half the size of John Hunter Hospital, with 315 beds. The existing hospital is closed, which removes another 188 beds. If we include Morisset Hospital, which has 80 beds, it means that Maitland will be left with 47 more beds than it started with. We can call paramedics whatever we like; it does not matter if we do not have the beds for them to put people in. This Government must be clear on what it is trying to achieve with this bill. It should be about patient outcomes and ensuring that those in our community who need the services of a paramedic—not people who are looking for a taxi, as the member for Davidson mentioned—receive them. The Government must take this matter seriously; I am sick of Government members saying one thing and meaning something else. I am concerned that by giving a statutory value to the title of paramedic the Government could change the definition of first responders. Firemen and other emergency services workers could then take on work that was previously performed by the Ambulance Service, perhaps giving the Government the opportunity to defund that service even more. I simply do not trust this Government on health and its attempts to Americanise our system. Ambulance officers and paramedics play a very specific role in our health system. Funding pressure on them flows to other emergency services, which must take up the so-called "slack". There is no slack. There are not enough resources in this area and the Government is failing to provide more. You can give them whatever title you like—you can call them a paramedic or you can call them Ronald McDonald—but if you do not fund them to do their job they cannot do it properly. That is the reality. I am sick of the smoke and mirrors from this Government. We should talk about health outcomes, not just names.


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