Call for intensive care paramedics to stay in the Hawkesbury

Paramedics have warned local resources are being stretched to the limit by a rostering system that regularly takes the region's intensive care crews out of the Hawkesbury area, leaving residents in almost 2,800 square kilometres to rely on intensive care crews from Penrith, Blacktown Castle Hill and Northmead.

Keep resources local: Australian Paramedics Association and intensive care paramedics Liu Bianchi, left, and Grant Jennison, right, with independent candidate for Hawkesbury, MJ Bowyer.

Keep resources local: Australian Paramedics Association and intensive care paramedics Liu Bianchi, left, and Grant Jennison, right, with independent candidate for Hawkesbury, MJ Bowyer.

Australian Paramedics Association delegates and Richmond-based paramedics Liu Bianchi and Grant Jennison said the Hawkesbury region was vulnerable due to a lack of staff and an outdated rostering system, which sees its intensive care crews frequently moved to fill depleted rosters outside the district.

"It is not unusual to have the closest intensive care paramedic respond from Nepean and as far away as Northmead, because our intensive care crew has been moved to fill rosters in other areas," they stated.

Mr Jennison explained general duties crews were highly skilled and possessed many lifesaving skills, "however intensive care paramedics possess advanced airway and pain management skills.

"What you get in an immediate emergency hospital environment is similar to what you get in your home with intensive care paramedics," he said.

"Intensive care paramedics have additional skills … and drugs, for example specialised airway skills and IV adrenaline for anaphylactic shock and asthma in extremis. General duties crews are skilled to use intra-muscular adrenaline, which is imperative in the early stages, but in the late stages IV adrenaline can be the difference between life and death.

“Leaving our Hawkesbury unprotected can be deadly."

Ms Bianchi said paramedics were required to take patients involved in major trauma incidents - such as high speed motor vehicle crashes - to designated trauma hospitals.

"Westmead is the only major trauma centre in western Sydney. This means that local crews are then out of the local area for longer," she said.

Mr Jennison said the Hawkesbury was "at least 45 to 50 minutes from a trauma hospital on a good day.

"If they are short one intensive care crew at, say, Northmead - which is a few minutes from Westmead - they will take the intensive care crew from Richmond and put it at Northmead, and send a general duties crew here," he said.

"The next closest intensive care crew is rostered at Penrith, if they’re not already on a case - that is at least an extra 20 minutes from Richmond."

Local knowledge of the fastest routes around the area was also critical to ambulance crews being able to save lives, and Ms Bianchi said there had been instances where those from out of the area had taken longer routes - and more time - due to following a satnav and not knowing local roads.

Local paramedics should be able to stay in the local area to serve the needs of the region, she said.

"We are trying to ensure the people of the Hawkesbury are as protected as they can possibly be with the resources we have now," she said.

"By pushing those resources out of the area just to fill a roster somewhere where really the need is not as great, says to me that the community of the Hawkesbury don't matter as much as the communities of Castle Hill, Blacktown and Northmead. "

The paramedics have received the support of Independent candidate for Hawkesbury MJ Bowyer, who said there needed to be greater recognition of the needs of the Hawkesbury population when it came to emergency services.

"We need to keep the services we have here. We want more services but we are struggling to keep what we have," she said. 

"Because we have such a large area area and because of the river, the distance involved, farm accidents, road accidents, it's making the residents of the Hawkesbury so vulnerable.

"It's making us feel like we matter a whole lot less."