ACT Ambulance Service minimum crew levels to be reviewed after target failures

ACT Ambulance Service minimum crew levels to be reviewed after target failures

ACT Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman has been accused of "changing the goal posts" after he flagged a review of the minimum staffing guidelines for the ACT Ambulance Service.

Figures provided to the ACT Legislative Assembly showed there were fewer than 10 ambulance crews working on 303 of the 730 shifts last financial year, prompting criticism from the ACT that paramedics were "grossly understaffed".

ACT emergency services minister Mick Gentleman.

ACT emergency services minister Mick Gentleman.

Photo: karleen minney

The ambulance service aims for 10 crews as a minimum standard for each shift, with an extra two crews helping out in peak times.

Under questioning from Canberra Liberals' emergency services spokeswoman Giulia Jones, Mr Gentleman told the Assembly on Wednesday the minimum standard would be reviewed to see whether it "remains an appropriate guide to allocating resources".

Canberra Liberals emergency services spokeswoman Giulia Jones.

Canberra Liberals emergency services spokeswoman Giulia Jones.

Photo: Jamila Toderas

Mr Gentleman said the ambulance service only operated with fewer than 10 crews on in periods of "low demand" but said providing a full list of the understaffed shifts would be too time-consuming.

He also did not provide details of how that low demand was assessed.

"For example if it's known that there's not enough staff to crew 10 emergency ambulances during the day, every effort is made to backfill the rostered shifts," Mr Gentleman said.

"The same effort to backfill rostered shifts might not be applied to night shifts during the middle of a working week.

"In these instances ACTAS accepts operating with fewer than 10 emergency ambulance crews in the knowledge that quality of care for the community is maintained.

"While the ACTAS chief officer informs me this arrangement has been manageable, demand is increasing [by 25 per cent since 2012]. With the demand to the welfare of our dedicated ambulance workforce in mind, and to allow them to continue to service the community, we announced the extra staff late last year."

However Mrs Jones said Mr Gentleman said failed to explain why the minimum standard had been put in place, how it had been determined and why the service had not met the standard for four in 10 shifts last financial year.

"I understand there may be a revisiting of it, which I will still term a changing of the goal posts because I'm assuming without any information to the contrary that those minimum crewing levels had been in place for a purpose and with some study behind them," Mrs Jones said.

"At this point in the debate there has been no reason given as to why that isn't a decent measure of a service which is increasingly under demand with an increasing population so I still think it's encumbent on the minister to explain to the community why we've got to this point."

Katie Burgess

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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