• 30th Mar 2022

Media statement: Federal budget a missed opportunity for paramedics to support improved health outcomes for all Australians



Wednesday March 30 2022

“Paramedics are part of the solution, and it is imperative that they are recognised as such and are funded accordingly.”

While the Australasian College of Paramedicine welcomes the five-year $230.7 million funding allocation to improve access to primary healthcare services nationally announced as part of the 2022 federal budget, the opportunity has been missed to capitalise on the potential of paramedics to serve as a viable, cost-effective and highly skilled workforce able to complement and bolster health services and improve health outcomes in our most vulnerable communities.

Up to 2400 student paramedics graduate from degree programs each year, but generally only half are able to find employment with jurisdictional ambulance services, leaving 1200 qualified graduate paramedics left unutilised or heading overseas to work in the UK and North America.

“Paramedics are uniquely placed to support urgent, medium and low-acuity patients before they need to access emergency ambulance or hospital services, resulting in fewer unnecessary emergency department presentations and a commensurate reduction in hospital ramping,” said College CEO John Bruning. “These patients have a range of conditions that fall within the paramedic scope of practice and capabilities, which can be managed by paramedics as part of multidisciplinary teams embedded with general practitioners (GPs), health clinics and after-hours services, bridging the gap between emergency departments and traditional primary care services.”

Such deployment has the potential to reduce the costs associated with emergency presentations, the management of chronic health conditions, and early entry into aged care. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data from 2020-2021 showed 768,716 non-urgent and 2,470,637 semi-urgent emergency department presentations where the consumer was not admitted or referred, equating to 36.7% of all emergency department presentations at a cost of $2.78 billion per year. Providing care to these patients in the community through GPs and multidisciplinary teams would deliver substantial savings to the health system, likely in excess of $1 billion per year.

According to The Commonwealth Fund, Australia is one of the top-ranking countries overall for health care but is the third lowest ranked for access and second lowest ranked for healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP - a deterioration in access to healthcare from 2017 (ranked fourth, now ranked eighth out of 11).

The College welcomes the funding allocated for scholarships, study and workforce incentive programs for doctors and nurses; however, the commitment is narrowly focused and excludes paramedics and other allied healthcare workers who are also ideally placed to provide solutions to the healthcare workforce shortages and are critical to the health care solutions for these communities. Another challenge for paramedicine is that funding regulations either impede or do not support paramedics working independently or from taking up opportunities in community health services. In order for this to happen, there needs to be changes to funding models for community and primary health that allow organisations to employ health professionals who are not covered by current Commonwealth funding.

The College has been advocating with the government for initiatives that augment Commonwealth-funded primary care capacity through the utilisation of paramedics outside of the scope of state and territory ambulance services through the adoption of innovative community paramedicine models that involve broader domains of practice and models of care that incorporate primary care, community engagement, preventative care, response to unplanned care needs, and integration with medical, allied health, aged and social care services.

We have also been advocating for changes to current policy that provide access to workforce incentive programs, including relocation, training, and remote/rural packages, for paramedics wanting opportunities to fill gaps in the health system and workforce shortages in regional and rural areas across the country. The 2022 budget has funded these opportunities for doctors and nurses but overlooks other allied health workers, including paramedics who are available now and are interested in being a part of the solution.

At present, Australia’s primary health care system has limited capacity to meet the needs of people in regional and rural areas, where there are poorer health outcomes and lower life expectancy due to inadequate access to health services. Due to the lack of options for out-of-hours care and the geographical maldistribution of health services, people in those areas are increasingly relying on paramedics for the delivery of routine health care, particularly where primary health care services are difficult to access or unavailable.

“The initiatives the College is proposing will help to deliver a safer and more accessible health system with significant cost savings and improved patient-centred care. The 2022 budget provided a tangible opportunity for the government to support genuinely innovative and responsive models of community healthcare, including our push to fund 30 national community paramedicine pilots in conjunction with Primary Health Networks and GPs to demonstrate that paramedics can improve the access to, and experience of, health care for the community, which ultimately improves the health outcomes for all Australians.

“Paramedics are part of the solution, and it is imperative that they are recognised as such and are funded accordingly.”

Back To News

Online Professional Development

Get unlimited access to hundreds of ACP's top courses for your professional development.

Join Now

Share this news