Extra ambulance help on the way

COMMUNITIES in the Northern Rivers may receive a boost to their ambulance strength with whispers the Northern Region is about to get 30 additional paramedics.

Health Services Union (HSU) sources said the NSW Ambulance Service had recently allocated 30 paramedics to the North Coast - from Coffs Harbour to Tweed Heads - in response to a spate of blown-out response times.

However, the NSW Ambulance Service dismissed the information as "rumour."

Nevertheless, a source told The Northern Star the extra positions would be for the region's larger 24-hour stations, such as Lismore, Ballina and Tweed Heads, to help ease paramedic fatigue.

This follows a succession of prolonged response times in the Northern Rivers since a new on-call guideline policy was introduced.

The NSW Ambulance Service said the new on-call policy meant on-duty crews would be utilised for non-urgent jobs in an attempt to minimise paramedic fatigue.

But the HSU claimed the "cost cutting" measure was endangering the community.

In August, a man died of a cardiac arrest in Murwillumbah after he waited 27 minutes for an ambulance. A South Grafton man died in similar circumstances after he was forced to wait for an on-duty ambulance to respond from Maclean.

On October 7, a Ballina man who collapsed waited an hour and a half for an ambulance - an hour longer than the ambulance's own response guidelines.

NSW Minister for Health Jillian Skinner said the recent spate of incidents in Northern NSW involving the deployment of paramedics would be included in a state-wide review of the Ambulance Service.


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