Ambulance staff are ‘facing burnout’ as they scramble to deal with the cut to emergency department hours at the Mersey Community Hospital.
Paramedics have told the Health and Community Services Union they are putting in much longer hours driving, as they now have to take patients to the Launceston General Hospital or the North West Regional Hospital over night.
HACSU assistant state secretary Robbie Moore said members felt the service was about to fail any time, and as a result they would be failing.
“The pressure is on them from all directions to provide the most efficient care, then on to the next patient. The call times are blowing out.
“Our ambos used to do three to four jobs a night, and each would last one to two hours, but now they’re lasting three to four hours.
“They could be doing up to a 15 hour shift due to ramping (at the LGH). Staff are facing burnout.”
Mr Moore said the government had promised 50 more paramedics for the COVID period at a cost of $11 million.
“But it hasn’t put more boots on the ground so far.”
However an Ambulance Tasmania spokesperson said it had made good progress in recruiting between 40 to 50 staff.
“More than 20 paramedics having commenced this year, along with 33 paramedic interns and additional intensive care flight paramedics to support bolstered aeromedical coverage.”
The spokesperson said paramedic recruitment was ‘ongoing’ and included more intensive care paramedics and more management support.
The LGH and NWRH also had policies to boost resources when demand surged.
“Ambulance Tasmania acknowledges the efforts of our hardworking paramedics and volunteers during this challenging period,” the spokesperson said.
But paramedics were also very worried about what might happen if COVID-19 returned to Tasmania.
“If a COVID cluster hit the (ambulance) workforce, they would be in a massive amount of trouble.
“We have raised this with government and at the moment the risk is low. But what are they going to do if it does come back?
“The system is just not going to cope if there is another outbreak.
“This is the time when they were supposed to be building capacity to deal with it.
“Ultimately that leads to people not getting the emergency treatment they need.”