On the 9th February the NSW Chapter Chair, Joe Acker, and the Past President, Ian Patrick, met with NSW Health staff at the Health Minister’s office in Sydney to discuss paramedic registration. Representing the Honourable Jillian Skinner, MP were: Andrew Kirk, Chief of Staff; James Orchiston, Senior Policy Advisor; Karen Crawshaw, Deputy Secretary, Governance, Workforce and Corporate; Ray Creen, Chief Executive Ambulance Service of NSW; and, Kathryn Wood, Executive Director, Office of the Chief Executive.

It is noted and appreciated that NSW Ministry of Health and the CEO and Executive Director of the NSW Ambulance Service accepted our invitation for a meeting and took the time to meet with us to discuss paramedic registration.

We shared the position of Paramedics Australasia (PA) that we are strong advocates for a national registration and accreditation scheme for paramedics within the regulated structure of other health professions under AHPRA. We emphasised that the motive for PA to support registration is to protect the public. It was explained to the Minister’s staff that the title of “paramedic” is not protected in most states and territories within Australian and not all paramedics work for public ambulance services. We added that there are more than 120 private organisations in Australia who employ paramedics including several that operate within NSW.

The Health Ministry staff explained that the current legislation and practices in NSW, including the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulations, provide assurances that work performed by private ambulance services is safe. We inquired about the challenge that exists in NSW where individuals providing first aid services at community and sporting events represent themselves as paramedics. The NSW Health staff recognised that this is a concern and that the Minister may consider title protection for paramedics in NSW. We asked if PA could be consulted on the drafting of any future legislation regarding paramedics.
We highlighted that the potential benefits of paramedic registration would include a third party conduct and competency process, a national register of paramedics, a formal structure and process to credential national and international practitioners, an organisation to monitor continuing professional development and maintenance of competency, a national education curriculum, and the national accreditation of university education.

It was clear that not all of the Health Ministry staff understood the current education pathways for paramedics in NSW. We explained that paramedicine is a 3-year degree in Australia and every state and territory, except NSW, require an undergraduate degree as an entry to practice standard. We also acknowledged that the vocational pathway produces highly skilled paramedics and that any registration scheme would have to include provisions to recognise paramedics training in the vocational system.

It was made clear to us that the NSW Health position is to retain a vocational pathway for paramedics within the NSW Ambulance Service. It was also clear from the meeting that the NSW Health Minister’s staff and advisors do not support the registration of paramedics at this time.

We encouraged the Health Minister’s staff to consider supporting paramedic registration, or at the very least consider the proposition of opting out of a national registration scheme instead of opposing it. We left them with copies of the PA publications of the “Forgotten Health Profession” and “Paramedic Role Description”.
PA will continue in its efforts to garner political support for paramedic registration in NSW and across all states and territories in Australia leading up to the next meeting of the Australian Health Ministers in March.

Dr Peter Hartley,
President Paramedics Australasia

For further information contact:
Robyn Smith
Executive Officer, Paramedics Australasia
0407 750 138 or robyn.smith@paramedics.org.au

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