A Minns Labor Government will begin the long task of repair and structural reform of the delivery of health care services across New South Wales, beginning with a boost to rural and regional paramedics.
The first phase is a $150 million commitment to fund an additional 500 paramedics in Labor’s first term, to ease the burden of chronic paramedic shortages and the unprecedented strain on our rural and regional health system.
This new workforce will be spread across areas with the most need – to be determined following significant consultation with health care professionals.
Labor in government will also be working to progressively upskill new and existing paramedics to intensive care and extended care paramedics – meaning they can deliver more life-saving and compassionate care 24 hours a day, and ease pressure on our hospitals.
For the last decade under the NSW Liberals and Nationals, health care in the regions has been in a state of crisis.
A landmark parliamentary inquiry, which Labor fought to establish, shone a light on a decade of mismanagement, leading to significant gaps in service delivery and a dire shortage of clinicians and healthcare professionals across our regions.
The lack of access to highly skilled paramedics and slower ambulance response times was an issue that was raised consistently in the inquiry. It found that rural and regional NSW was underserved by paramedics of all levels, and in particular there were entrenched policy barriers that prevented Intensive Care and Extended Care Paramedics working in rural and regional NSW.
Ambulance response times have been trending down in NSW for a decade. The latest data from the Bureau of Health Information (BHI) for the April to June 2022 quarter found that patients waited longer even for an ambulance, than any time since reporting started.
For the highest priority life threatening callouts, only 57.6 per cent meet the clinical benchmark – down from 72.6 per cent 12 years ago.
Sadly, the issue is worse outside our cities. In the most recent quarter, 58.9 per cent of callouts reached the 10-minute benchmark in metro areas, but only 54.7 per cent in rural areas.
Right now, NSW has the second-worst ambulance response times in Australia. We also have the second-fewest number of paramedics per person, well below the national average, and substantially behind states like Victoria and Queensland.
As a result, our paramedic-attended heart attack survival rates are the second worst in the country, at only 43.6 per cent (compared to over 58 per cent in Victoria and Queensland).
NSW Labor will also seek bipartisan support for an in-principle agreement to the outcomes of the NSW Government’s taskforce that has been established to look at professional recognition for paramedics across the state.
Professional recognition for paramedics will formally acknowledge the change in education, training and skills required of paramedics over the years.
Professional paramedics will offer significantly enhanced scope of emergency health care across NSW, and help to ease pressure on emergency departments.
This follows an announcement recognising paramedic practitioners in Victoria, and is modelled on the United Kingdom, where paramedics attend more complex callouts, can give more medications, and use more advanced equipment than they currently do.
NSW Labor looks forward to the findings of the taskforce, and will look to implement the findings in government.
This commitment is the first of many required steps to repair the New South Wales health system – in crisis after a decade of mismanagement and underinvestment.
NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns said:
“The New South Wales system cannot cope with another four years of Band-Aid solutions.”
“We need long term, structural repair and this announcement from Labor today is only the beginning.”
“I want to thank the hardworking paramedics, especially those in the regions who go to work every day and do the very best they can in difficult circumstances.
“I’m interested in finding long term solutions to the health crisis in New South Wales. It’s not an easy task but I am determined to do it.
NSW Shadow Minister for Health Ryan Park said:
“Our ambulance services, but particularly those in rural and regional areas are in desperate need of an injection of resources to fix the mess, and the shortages crippling our health network.
“It’s like going to work with one hand tied behind your back.
“This Government has had 12 years – and they’ve failed to address chronic issues in our health system. This has meant chronic shortages and an overstretched and overwhelmed ambulance network across the state.”
“A Minns Labor Government will begin the task of repairing that”.