Paramedics from regional communities are being placed at unnecessary risk of COVID-19 exposure by a requirement to travel into Sydney for training, says the Australian Paramedics Association (NSW).
The union said increased risk to frontline workers and to regional communities is avoidable and unacceptable, and has called on NSW Ambulance to immediately relocate training for regional Paramedics to existing regional facilities.
“We’re disappointed and disturbed that NSW Ambulance is putting regional Paramedics and regional communities at risk by sending staff to Sydney in the midst of a pandemic,” said APA (NSW) President Chris Kastelan.
“It’s irresponsible, and it’s entirely unnecessary.
“Ambulance have regional centres and regional educators who should be equipped to lead this type of training. No Paramedic should be sent from regional NSW into a COVID hotspot when it can be avoided.”
Paramedics from Dubbo, Cowra, Tamworth, Wagga, Byron Bay and other regional locations have been scheduled to attend training in Sydney later in August. APA (NSW) says requiring staff to travel to a ‘red zone’ when training could be relocated is inconsistent with the intentions of the Public Health Orders.
Paramedics are also concerned about flow-on effects in regional communities should essential frontline health staff be exposed to COVID-19 whilst in Sydney.
“In the communities most affected by Sydney’s current outbreak, we’ve seen coverage dip dangerously low as staff are declared close contacts and forced to isolate.
“We’re watching a real-time example of how exposure to the virus places pressure on the service, carves into rostered coverage and leaves communities at risk.
“In regional communities, there’s even fewer staff and less slack in the system to make up for this reduced capacity. Most regional Paramedics have not been fit tested to ensure effective PPE, and populations are more vulnerable due to lower rates of vaccination.
“Increasing the risk to essential workers from these regions defies all logic. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.