The new Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff must not delay in addressing the critical shortage of paramedics in rural and regional Tasmania.
Acting Labor Leader, Anita Dow, said the Legislative Council Inquiry into rural health has heard more distressing stories of people having to wait too long for an ambulance.
“A submission to the inquiry from the Rural Doctors Association of Tasmania highlighted one case where an elderly women who had fallen in a supermarket in the North East, had to wait an hour for an ambulance to arrive,” Ms Dow said.
“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case and we are hearing alarming reports from North West volunteer ambulance officers that regional hubs on the West Coast are being left unattended for hours and that paramedics fear this is putting communities at risk.
“This is a critical situation that needs to be addressed now before another Tasmanian dies while waiting for an ambulance.
“Tasmanians deserve better and the Minister must make it an absolute priority to recruit more permanent paramedics and also volunteers to rural and regional areas.
“Labor took to the election a genuine commitment to support and recruit volunteer ambulance officers in all of our regional areas.
“We committed to providing an additional $5.1 million to recruit 510 volunteers, as well as appointing two full-time recruitment and volunteers support officers.
“Labor also gave a commitment to employ an additional 144 full-time paramedics to ensure every station has 24/7 coverage.”
Ms Dow said the Minister could immediately address part of the problem by overturning Peter Gutwein and former Health Minister Sarah Courtney’s mean-spirited decision to cut a travel allowance for North West ambulance crews.
“Premier Peter Gutwein has placed paramedics in an untenable position of having to travel significant distances to cover staff shortages at rural stations because the government simply has not given them the resources they require to perform their jobs,” Ms Dow said.
“To then cut a 46 cents a kilometre travel allowance, which has been paid to paramedics for years, is just unacceptable.
“It is totally unreasonable to ask paramedics to travel to do extra shifts in other areas without being paid a travel allowance.
“These paramedics are filling gaps and without their goodwill, our regional communities will be put at risk.
“Premier Peter Gutwein has shown he is willing to increase health risks to communities for the sake of a small travel allowance and it’s now time for new Health Minister Jeremy Rockliff to intervene, stand up for his region and overturn this mean-spirited and unreasonable decision.”
Anita Dow MP
Acting Labor Leader