Speaking on ABC Radio National Breakfast this morning about the surplus of paramedics and the call to government to allow them to work across the public health sector, College Chair Ryan Lovett said that paramedics were ideally placed to fill the current gaps in primary health care.
Mr Lovett said the College was lobbying the federal government to identify funding streams to open up further job opportunities for paramedics in the public health sector and ease the burden on hospitals.
“Every minute that they spend waiting in line at a hospital is a minute that they can't spend helping the community.
“Ambulance services and paramedics have always been the purview of state governments. The opportunity for paramedics to work in other aspects of primary health care and Aboriginal care in other places has just exploded, but the health system model hasn't kept up with that. What we're saying to them is, actually no, paramedics can really help you in filling the gaps in primary health care, which is a Commonwealth-funded aspect of the system, what we want to do is work with the Commonwealth to identify funding streams for GPs, for GP practices, so they can engage paramedics to provide some baseline services or expanded services in these areas.”
Mr Lovett said that every year there were more graduates from Australian universities than there were jobs available in the ambulance services.
“We know there are paramedics out there - qualified, registered health professionals - who aren't able to find work. And this is why the College is really promoting the opportunities that exist in primary health care in regional and remote Australia for paramedics to fill the gaps because we know there's critical workforce shortages out there.”
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Vice-President Dr Bruce Willett echoed the call for the expansion of funding to enable paramedics to be integrated into GP clinics.
“We've seen decades of underfunding of Medicare, where the funding for Medicare for GPs is essentially half what it was. And that really means that general practice is the less-attractive option and we're seeing people not choose to do general practice. I think the main thing is to … properly fund good general practice with experienced GPs. But in the meantime, integrating practice nurses and paramedics is likely to be a short to medium-term solution in terms of building a more effective general practice and a better general practice.”
Mr Lovett said the College is also advocating for the appointment of a Commonwealth Chief Paramedic Officer (CPO).
“What we saw in Victoria - the only jurisdiction in Australia that has a CPO (Alan Eade ASM) - is that during the pandemic, he was able to work with the Health Department there and say, you've got this opportunity now during the pandemic for screening, for vaccinations, for community-based healthcare. We've got the paramedics, and we really saw a great utilisation, so what we want to do as a College is take that Victorian model, raise it up to the Commonwealth and share that around the country.”
You can listen to the full interview in the player above.