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Alarm over Hunter paramedic shortage

THE Hunter has fewer intensive care paramedic teams than its Central Coast neighbours despite having almost twice as many people.
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Figures released to the Newcastle Herald indicate there are two intensive care crew units in the Hunter for its population of more than 500,000 people compared with three on the Central Coast for its population of about 300,000.

A former Central Coast health board director and paramedic has called for a restructure of the allocations, saying it disadvantages Hunter residents when there’s an emergency.

His call has been backed by the paramedics union, which says both areas are dramatically understaffed when it comes to specialist intensive care paramedics.

Both have identified a need for dedicated six-man intensive care crew units on west Lake Macquarie and in the Rutherford-Thornton area.

The Ambulance Service of NSW said there were 65 intensive care paramedics by headcount in the Hunter compared with 50 on the Central Coast.

It said the closest appropriate crews were always deployed and it amended rosters to cater to demand.

Stephen Hogeveen, of Cooranbong, is a former intensive care paramedic, station manager and Central Coast Health board director.

He said in the Hunter dedicated six-man intensive care crew units were stationed at Hamilton and Cardiff, with stand-alone intensive care specialists at various stations.

On the Central Coast specialist crews were at Point Clare, Bateau Bay and Toukley.

Six-person units mean there is always a two-man team available for each shift.

Mr Hogeveen said under the present system the Hunter was not being served efficiently.

‘‘Why are the citizens of the Hunter treated like second-class citizens,’’ he said.

‘‘The best of care could be easily provided to many more by simple redistribution of already available staff.’’

Health Services Union Hunter ambulance sub-branch president Peter Rumball said the Central Coast should ideally have about four units and the Hunter four or five.

Mr Rumball said there had been no increase in specialist paramedic units in the Hunter since 1981.

‘‘It’s all about politics, not patients,’’ he said

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