At least five COVID-positive patients waited outside ED at Sydney’s Westmead Hospital yesterday, as delays left Paramedics queuing up to seven hours to transfer patient care. The Australian Paramedics Association (NSW) says extreme delays exacerbate exposure risks for staff, and reflect systemic fallings which could have been avoided with proper planning.
“This is the crisis every Paramedic saw coming,” said APA (NSW) President Chris Kastelan.
“NSW Health had over a year to prepare for this outbreak, but we’ve seen consistent failures to plan for increased caseload or put in place basic safety measures to protect patients and staff.”
APA (NSW) says NSW Health have failed to meet union demands to ensure Paramedic safety, including streamlining patient transfers at ED, fit testing every worker for effective PPE, and installing dedicated ambulance cleaning teams at every major hospital.
“We accept a certain level of risk when we step into this job, but we also expect our employer to do everything within its power to minimise this risk and to support us on the road.
“Right now, Paramedics across NSW are feeling abandoned and let down.
“We don’t know the risk of spending 7 hours in an ambulance with a confirmed COVID-19 patient. We don’t know what risk we might be bringing home to our families.”
The union says backlogs at emergency are being cause by poor planning, poor resourcing, and poor communication between hospitals and ambulances.
“Sometimes Paramedics will be told there is a bed available, then arrive at the hospital only to find out that isn’t true. This leaves both staff and patients stranded.”
“Being taken to hospital after testing positive for COVID is a stressful enough experience—imagine also having to wait outside in an ambulance for 7 hours. No one should have to go through that.”
“And every hour Paramedics spend at hospital is an hour they are not available to respond to emergencies in the community.
“Boots on the ground are already stretched thin right now with so many staff in isolation. We can’t afford to lose more resources to hospital mismanagement.”
The union is calling on NSW Health to address their demands over staff safety as a matter of urgency, and conduct a full review into the systemic failings which have led to extreme delays.