Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (South Australia Protection of Title - Paramedics) Amendment Bill

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:26): I, too, rise to support this bill to protect the title of our paramedics here in South Australia. As the member for Morphett and the member for Stuart have said, the paramedic profession in Australia is currently not regulated, despite consistent calls for it to be included as part of our national registration and accreditation scheme for health professions.

Mr WHETSTONE (Chaffey) (12:26): I, too, rise to support this bill to protect the title of our paramedics here in South Australia. As the member for Morphett and the member for Stuart have said, the paramedic profession in Australia is currently not regulated, despite consistent calls for it to be included as part of our national registration and accreditation scheme for health professions.

As it stands, with no regulation, essentially any person may call themselves a paramedic and undertake duties and responsibilities generally associated with paramedic practice. Even without the necessary education or training, people can call themselves a paramedic, and this is certainly concerning.

That said, our ambulance service is comprised of both career and volunteer paramedics, and it is paramount that those people, who are providing a vital service, whether it be in a professional or volunteer capacity, be supported and protected under this bill. It will be an offence for any person to take or use the title of paramedic unless they hold the appropriate qualification.

Over my quite long career in sport, particularly in competitive waterskiing, I had to gain certain certificates to perform CPR and also support assistants if there were falls during the waterskiing; obviously, the disciplines can be quite different in some cases. Particularly in lake racing, there is very rough water; there are always many laps, and skiers can fall off many times during a race, particularly in some of the waterways in Europe, where they are basically concrete channels and the water becomes very rough and very peaky.

I have very vivid memories particularly of river racing and of when a skier has fallen—and at high speeds it is usually not a good outcome. I have had to support skiers, perform CPR on skiers, and nurture skiers who have fallen and hurt themselves extremely badly. I would not call myself a paramedic, but I would say that it is a volunteer support that is there to help until the professional medical help does get there. It has been of huge concern that people be there to assist. They do not have to be a recognised paramedic but they have to be there to basically fill the gap until the professional gets there.

I would like to touch on paramedics in Chaffey, and particularly in Riverland towns, which are largely serviced by career paramedics. Regional communities like Morgan, which falls in Stuart, and Swan Reach, Pinnaroo and Lameroo are supported by volunteers, and there have been many calls for volunteers from South Australian ambulance services due to shortages.

Some of those services have tried to incentivise volunteers to provide benefits by way of free training in lifesaving treatments and general medical support but, sadly, in 2007 the South Australian Ambulance Service said volunteer numbers were down to such an extent that some ambulance cars even had to be left unstaffed, and this is not the kind of situation we want to see.

Ambulances sometimes have to be called in from other areas during an emergency and, while there are shortages, we must not use volunteers without necessary education and training to provide the level of care expected. Without the generous people who volunteer their time in small country communities to be a part of their local ambulance services, many country towns would not have this service.

Again, the South Australian Ambulance Service volunteers recruitment activity supports South Australia's Strategic Plan, Target 24, to maintain the level of volunteering in South Australia at about a 70 per cent participation or higher. The bill is supported by the Council of Ambulance Authorities and St John's Ambulance SA.

I would also like to touch on what is happening in my electorate of Chaffey when we are talking about looking at providing services within hospitals, particularly when we look at some of the HAC funds that have been held up, or have had criteria put on them. There are a lot of individuals who put countless hours into providing services in the regions, but in that volunteer capacity.

We are looking at providing better services at hospitals, and we see that the current government's health budget is depleted and cash-strapped and we have community fund raising. We have HAC funds sitting in an account that the government has put a clamp on, and that is a real concern. It needs to be recognised that paramedics in South Australia are of significant importance. They need to be recognised for the duty they do, but also the volunteers in their capacity to be a part of that. In saying that, I support the bill.

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