Miscarriages and suicide not considered 'priority' cases

Emergency response: An Ambulance rushes to a job with lights and sirens blaring. Picture: Rob Homer.
Emergency response: An Ambulance rushes to a job with lights and sirens blaring. Picture: Rob Homer.

Women who miscarry in their first or second trimester and cases of suicide will no longer be considered ‘‘priorities’’ by NSW paramedics.

Responses for those incidents as well as those at risk of serious haemorrhage will now be downgraded from needing priority — lights and sirens — to ‘‘immediate’’ responses, NSW Ambulance has instructed paramedics.

The changes come as the supply of paramedics continually struggle to deal with the demand of patients.

Former Macquarie Fields MP and local paediatrician Andrew McDonald Said the decision not to treat mothers who miscarry in their first or second trimesters as priorities was a mistake.

‘‘It is one of the greatest crisis people can have in their lives,’’ he said.

Dr McDonald said there was a ‘‘simple solution’’ to reduce demand on paramedics.

‘‘While we have bed block, we will have ambulance delays,’’ he said.

‘‘We have ambulance officers servicing patients in the emergency department rather than being out on the road.

‘‘It’s that simple because you can’t do anything without beds to put patients in.’’

Sandra McDonald (no relation to Dr McDonald), the founder of Beautiful Minds — an organisation that helped establish Campbelltown’s mental health recovery centre Harmony House — said providing NSW Ambulance with the adequate funds and resources was a ‘‘priority’’.

‘‘It seems to me the ambulance service is seriously underfunded and that’s the nub of the problem,’’ she said.

‘‘Nobody including [Health Minister] Jillian Skinner want to wait a second longer than necessary after calling for an ambulance.

‘‘I think this issue is a priority and needs to be addressed before there is a death as a result of the ambulance service being unable to cope.’’

Health Services Union councillor and paramedic for 25 years, Greg Bruce, said hospitals were ‘‘one factor’’ but the major issue was a lack of paramedic crews.

‘‘In Sydney we have had an additional 30,000 cases annually since 2010 but we have only got one additional crew,’’ he said.

‘‘Increased workloads are a real problem and it’s taking longer to get to lights and sirens cases — higher priority incidents — and it’s a concern.

Mr Bruce also said a lack of ‘‘clinical investigation’’ was a ‘‘concern’’.

‘‘Some cases can be under or overrated which means someone in a higher category should be in a lower category or vice versa,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s not the call-takers fault, it’s their level of training.’’

HSU secretary Gerard Hayes added: ‘‘Paramedics welcome the prioritisation of jobs. However its important that NSW Ambulance has the resources to meet those priorities. We believe NSW Ambulance is critically under resourced in Sydney and in particular the west and south west.’’ 

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