Labor leader Chris Minns has committed to an additional 500 paramedics in regional and rural NSW after a damning parliamentary inquiry found the state’s strained ambulance service was particularly stretched in the bush.
In his first major health policy announcement, Minns says Labor will make a $150 million commitment to fund an additional 500 paramedics in Labor’s first term, to ease the burden of chronic paramedic shortages and the strained rural and regional health system.
The new workforce would be spread across areas with the most need, which would be determined following consultation with healthcare professionals.
Minns said if elected in March, Labor would also be work to progressively upskill new and existing paramedics to intensive care and extended care paramedics.
The government announced in its June budget it would employ more than 1850 extra paramedics and build 30 new stations to improve struggling front-line healthcare.
A budget commitment of $1.76 billion over four years was set aside in the state budget, including funding for an extra 210 ambulance support staff, as well as 52 nurses and eight doctors.
However, Minns said the landmark inquiry exposed a decade of mismanagement, leading to significant gaps in service delivery and a dire shortage of clinicians and healthcare professionals across the regions.
The lack of access to highly skilled paramedics and slower ambulance response times was an issue that was raised consistently in the inquiry, he said.
It found that regional NSW was underserved by paramedics of all levels, and there were entrenched policy barriers that prevented intensive care and extended care paramedics from working in rural and regional NSW.