The NSW Ambulance Service is trialling the hospital refusal on the Central Coast, following a landmark Auditor General’s report that found paramedics should be able to refuse transport to patients that need a band-aid, not a hospital bed.
Currently paramedics cannot refuse to transport a patient to hospital if they insist on going.
The Auditor Generla’s report found that too often, paramedics were forced to take people to hospital regardless of how minor their condition was.
In some cases, Paramedics were forced to spend time with patients who complained of bed bugs, wanted their prescriptions renewed, or had “vision problems caused by mascara”.
NSW Ambulance Chief Executive Ray Creen said the six month Central Coast trial would be rolled out to other stations if it is seen to be a success.
“Having considered the Auditor-General’s recommendations, NSW Ambulance is trialling a process whereby paramedics can refuse to transport a patient to a hospital emergency department where it is clear that transport is not warranted,” Mr Creen said.
“NSW Ambulance, in collaboration with Central Coast NSW Medicare Local, is undertaking a six- month trial. Under the trial, intensive care paramedics can refer — or transport — low acuity patients to their regular GP rather than to a hospital Emergency Department.”
NSW Ambulance Service chief superintendent Graeme Malone, who is the director of models of care, said paramedics on the Central Coast were trained to assess a patient when they arrive on the scene, and decide how to treat them.
“This recognises that up until now, the majority of patients were transported to an ED. Paramedics didn’t have the mechanism set up to refer a patient to a GP,” Chief superintendent Malone said.
This meant that patients with nosebleeds, coughs and colds, and minor sprains could insist on being transported to an emergency department.
Health Services Union NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes said the union backed the trial.
“Giving paramedics the pay and qualifications to triage an medical call out at the scene will help to take pressure off the State’s emergency departments,” Mr Hayes said.
“This is a practice that ought to be expanded to other areas across the State.”
The Auditor General’s report that prompted the change said the public had “unrealistic expectations about the role of the Ambulance Service,” including that an ambulance will fast-track people into hospital, and that ambulances can be called for minor ailments.
By 2021 the Ambulance Service wants to cut 125,000 “unnecessary transports” every year, amid concerns raised by the Auditor General that every day, the services loses an average of 18 ambulances as a result of hospital delays of more than 30 minutes.