Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (16 November) . . Page.. 3609..
MR PRATT (continuing):
file of the services have indicated their concerns that they are overstretched, for a number of reasons. The reasons are essentially personnel. Sometimes training impacts on that and too often equipment impacts on that as well. It is a bit sad that these nine officers are being counted to supposedly show us that the capability is there when, in fact, six of those nine officers require, under the ACTAS operational standard, full paramedical training, which will take quite a long time.
The issues of training go to, again, the length of training. For example, I am advised that, earlier this year, of the four new recruits that were brought in as a particular batch of recruits-and these were recruits who had nursing and basic ambulance officer qualifications-two were lost. The rank and file felt that these people were being mucked around. The training was not ready to go. The resources were not there. These people had to wait for some time. They could not be employed-at least against the standard laid down by the ACTAS.
To go on and talk about the crews, we have heard from the minister that he believes we have about seven fully crewed vehicles available on a 24-hour cycle-around the clock. The minister has confused us in this place as to whether he believes there is an operational standard of seven crews required 24 hours a day, seven days a week. On one occasion he said, "Yes, that seems to be the standard,"but in response to another question without notice yesterday he indicated, "Well, sometimes we can operate with five crews; that seems to be acceptable."
The feedback I get from the rank and file is that they understand ACTAS are required to provide seven fully staffed crews per block across three blocks around the clock. That is seven per 24 hours. There is some confusion here as to whether the minister was correct yesterday or whether the rank and file have got the wrong impression from management as to how many crews are required to be provided. In fact, the rank and file are telling me that they believe we need 10 crews per block; that is, 20 personnel, 20 fully qualified paramedics, per block around the 24-hour cycle to meet the needs of the ACT.
They are saying that, because we do not have those 10 crews available around the clock, the crews currently doing the job are run off their feet. They are working overtime shifts to plug the gaps which are left behind. I am advised also that too often single response unit vehicles are counted as part of the operational response. As we know, single response units are vehicles crewed by one fully qualified paramedic who can be called out to an incident. But they only have the ability to respond and provide life-saving first aid on the spot. They must wait for a fully crewed vehicle to appear on site to carry out the evacuation; that is, a single response unit vehicle cannot evacuate a patient to hospital. Of course, if it is a complicated medical problem on site, the one paramedic may have overstretched himself trying to apply this. ACTAS management are counting these SRUs amongst the seven available crews per block. This is a concern. There is a misrepresentation on just how capable the services are when we start counting SRUs as twin-crewed vehicles.
When it comes to the serviceability of ambulance vehicles, we asked a question here yesterday about how many Victorian ambulances were required to plug the gap. The minister told us he thought about three, at one stage, for a couple of months. It begs the question: how many times has that had to occur? I am advised that the old GMC