NSW GOVERNMENT MUST TAKE ACTION TO RETAIN PARAMEDICS
Today in Parliament Amanda asked a question in Question Time about steps to retaining paramedics in the context of the health staffing crisis we are facing in the public health system.
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and Minister for Regional Health. Two in three New South Wales paramedics say they plan to leave or are considering leaving the already understaffed service, further exacerbating the exodus of paramedics out of the profession and particularly out of the State. The Premier said he will turn around the crisis in health and hospital staffing with recruitment and retention incentives to alleviate the "extreme pressure workers like paramedics are facing". Noting that the Government's plan for study subsidies for paramedics is a recruitment initiative, what is the New South Wales Government doing to keep existing paramedics in their jobs, in their communities and in New South Wales while it trains the next generation of paramedics?
The Minister responded saying:
I welcome the excellent question about our healthcare professionals and paramedics across regional New South Wales. I acknowledge the work of Dr Amanda Cohn, a frontline healthcare worker in regional New South Wales. I welcome the contribution the member has already made and I look forward to the contribution she will make in this place. There is no doubt that healthcare workers across New South Wales, but particularly in regional New South Wales, are feeling the effects of 12 years of a Liberal-Nationals Government.
This is a really important issue and a really important question that the member has asked me in my capacity representing the excellent Minister for Health and a range of other things that I do not have at my fingertips at the moment. He has already got to work implementing the range of commitments that we took to the election in relation to paramedics and specifically regional paramedics. This is a real challenge that we are facing: encouraging people to stay, particularly in our regional areas. We certainly look forward to working with the member to find ways to do that. We value public services and we think that you cannot have public services without having people behind them. That is a fundamental part of the way that we approach our time in government. It is the way we approach our comprehensive expenditure review. It is so important that we value the work that they are doing. I look forward to coming back to the honourable member with a more detailed response.
The Minister will have 21 days to provide a deferred answer to the House, which will become available in Hansard here.
Amanda then took note of the Minister's response during Take Note Debate.
I take note of the response of the Minister representing the Minister for Health, and Minister for Regional Health to my question about retention of paramedics. I was delighted to hear the Government acknowledge the critical importance of frontline workers and that action is needed to both recruit and retain our paramedics. I was also delighted to hear that the Minister looks forward to my contribution on that matter. A number of steps could be taken immediately to improve working conditions for paramedics and stem the interstate exodus of skilled professionals.
The Australian Paramedics Association (NSW), representing 60 per cent of New South Wales paramedics, has loudly and clearly called for patient transport to be made available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That means, for example, for patients whose hospital treatment is completed or who need to be transferred between hospitals it is often clinically appropriate for transport to be undertaken by, for example, a driver and a nurse rather than tying up two paramedics, who are often already working extended and exhausting hours and who are then not available to respond to emergencies, which puts our communities at risk. That has already been raised at recent inquiries into rural health and ambulance ramping. We need to recognise the skills of extended and intensive care paramedics who are already working in the regions and whose skills are not being recognised by the New South Wales Government. After three years of pay cuts in real terms, paramedics need a pay rise that reflects their skills and the contributions they make to our communities. Not only is the base salary of Queensland paramedics better than New South Wales paramedics, but Queensland is also currently luring our trained paramedics away with $20,000 incentive payments.
Finally, in the context of discussions about the safety of our frontline workers, paramedics need to have break rooms at hospitals and safe places to complete documentation and handover. They are things that relevant unions and frontline workers have been talking about for years. The solutions are readily available. I look forward to their urgent consideration by the Government.