St John Ambulance has failed to prepare for the omicron outbreak in WA and must act swiftly to avoid the fate of ambulance services on the eastern seaboard, Carolyn Smith, United Workers Union WA state secretary, said today.
Ms Smith made a call for St John Ambulance to urgently take on new trained paramedics ahead of an emergency meeting between WA paramedics and the WA Health Minister, Amber-Jade Sanderson, today.
(EDS: Meeting scheduled for 9.30am to 10.30am Wednesday, January 19. Ms Smith will hold a press conference at Dumas House, 2 Havelock St, West Perth, at 10.30am).
“St John Ambulance is sleep-walking into a disaster but we already know from the eastern states how this disaster plays out,” Ms Smith said.
“St John has ignored the calls of WA paramedics for extra trained staff and other measures to address the forthcoming wave of omicron cases.
“Instead St John is taking a ‘fingers-crossed, she’ll be right’ attitude with lots of ‘plans’ but little actual sign of robust preparedness.
“For example St John’s current plan to request funding for additional patient transport officers – incidentally part of St John’s profit-making business unit – just doesn’t cut the mustard when compared to boosting fully-qualified paramedics.
“We know from the experience in Victoria, NSW and Queensland that a well-trained, multi-skilled surge workforce is absolutely necessary if the ambulance service is going to keep WA safe during omicron.”
Last week Ambulance Victoria issued code red alerts and warned of delays in ambulances reaching non-emergency patients after 442 ambulance staff were isolating with Covid or as close contacts.
And Queensland has seen emergency calls jump by a third compared to January last year, leading to exhausted ambulance officers working additional shifts and extra hours.
According to the ABC wait times have blown out across Queensland, with reports of some people waiting up to six hours for urgent ambulance call-outs and up to 18 hours for less urgent calls.
“The threat of omicron to ambulance services is particularly pressing in regional areas of WA where there is already a near-complete reliance on volunteers to plug holes,” Ms Smith said.
“This approach will certainly not work when omicron is spreading widely in the community.
“Some country locations are under so much pressure that should volunteer absenteeism occur, those areas will not have any ambulance service provision.
“There is an easy fix on this issue, and that fix is to bring on well-trained, professional staff who can deal with the stresses caused by omicron without compromising safety.”
St John has ignored calls from WA paramedics to:
- BRING FORWARD this year’s already-planned paramedic recruitment intake of approximately 110 paramedics.
- FAST-TRACK recruitment of 60 current paramedicine graduates, and Patient Transport Officers in regional WA, as surge capacity.
- EXPLORE using university paramedicine facilities to fast-track inductions for graduates.
- SURVEY current volunteers to see who will be still prepared to volunteer in the event of outbreaks in their region.
- MAKE a pre-emptive request of Defence, so that there are no delays if support from Defence is required.
- MODEL likely outcomes in WA based on East Coast numbers to get an understanding of when the surge will come.
Media Contact: 1300 898 633, [email protected]