NSW Ambulance is 'under the pump' with driver shortages and lengthy wait times, says Labor candidate

Labor candidate for Heathcote, Maryanne Stuart, and Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord outside Helensburgh ambulance station, meet with Helensburgh residents to discuss their concerns of "lengthy" medical response times. Picture: John Veage
Labor candidate for Heathcote, Maryanne Stuart, and Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord outside Helensburgh ambulance station, meet with Helensburgh residents to discuss their concerns of "lengthy" medical response times. Picture: John Veage

A petition signed by about 200 residents of Helensburgh is pushing for a fix to “lengthy response times” by ambulance services.

Labor candidate for Heathcote, Maryanne Stuart, is calling on the NSW government to address what she says are long waits for patients who seek medical assistance, with the ambulance “unable to keep up with the area’s growing population.”

Ms Stuart took the petition to Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord, who presented it to Parliament. She says the ambulance service is “stretched to breaking point.”

“Paramedics are forced to travel further and further to reach patients, putting patients at risk,” Ms Stuart said.

“A paramedic told me just last week that during one shift, he was the only car in the shire, and on one occassion, had to drive from Penrith to Engadine. He also said he was concerned about driver fatigue. They are telling me they are now told to go to Wollongong before they get called to Helensburgh.

“The first time this came to my attention was when a mother contacted me a while ago. Her daughter broke her leg at one of the local primary schools. The ambulance station is about six streets away but it took two an and a half hours for someone to arrive.”.

“As far as the Berejiklian government is concerned, the Illawarra region now stretches from Helensburgh all the way to Ulladulla, that is the distance NSW paramedics are being expected to travel,” Mr Secord said.

The petition, launched by Labor candidate for Heathcote, Maryanne Stuart, and presented to Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord, cited concerns that Helensburgh was being left without suitable ambulance coverage.

The petition, launched by Labor candidate for Heathcote, Maryanne Stuart, and presented to Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord, cited concerns that Helensburgh was being left without suitable ambulance coverage.

Long-time Helensburgh resident, Betty Marcy, 88, says a solid emergency base is crucial to match the suburb’s expanding population.

“I’ve lived here for more than 37 years, and we’ve always had a stationed ambulance here, which is good because we are growing exponentially,” she said.

“I’m lucky to be in good health but we are a long way from hospital, and we have the same normal hazards that everyone has, such a traffic.

“Often most of the trouble happens in the western suburbs, so when the ambulance is busy there, we wouldn’t get much of a look in.”

The latest figures from the Bureau of Health Information showed there was increased activity for NSW ambulance services during the April to June 2018 quarter – up from 2.9 per cent compared with the same period last year.

The report showed that out of 282,000 responses state-wide, of those, 125,857 were emergencies.

But a NSW Ambulance spokesman says paramedic response times for the most serious of emergencies in the Helensburgh area from April-June was on average, 8 minutes – well under the 10 minutes requirement for a response for those types of emergencies.

“Helensburgh Ambulance Station is manned by a combination of duty staff and on call staff who live locally and are readily available to respond to emergencies when required,” he said.

“The NSW government’s budget announcement in June included a record investment in NSW Ambulance of more than $1 billion for 2018-19 and an unprecedented boost of 700 additional paramedics and 50 call centre staff over four years.”

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