SA ambos ‘at breaking point’

A South Australian paramedic has spoken out about the dangerous impacts of being underfunded.

Jim Murchland fronted the media on Sunday and said patients had died because there weren’t enough ambulances on the road to get to them all in time.

He told of a recent shift where he worked more than 12 hours without a break.

“I just went from job to job to job,” Mr Murchland said.

“Towards the very end of the night, myself, my partner and another ambulance crew were all too fatigued and short of equipment to attend a life-threat case.

“I’m actually at risk of just crashing into a tree if I go.”

Mr Murchland slammed the state government for underfunding the service.

“Multiple patients have died. Nothing’s done and it’s getting worse,” he said.

There are around 1500 full-time staff working for the South Australian Ambulance Service, but that number needs to increase by another 400 to ease the current conditions, according to the union representing paramedics.

The Ambulance Employees Association of SA (AEA) released an open letter over the weekend, claiming its members were becoming “increasingly concerned” for the lives of South Australians because of the increased demand for ambulances and the lack of resources to respond.

AEA senior industrial officer Rob Leaney said the union heard of two occasions within a week where there were up to 15 emergencies waiting with no ambulance to respond.

The state of the ambulance service has deteriorated to catastrophic conditions,” he said.

“Our members are at breaking point.

“Our hardworking ambos cannot do their job properly and keep the community safe unless the government urgently provides more funding.”

The AEA has started a petition, calling on the government to better resource the ambulance service and fix ramping, which requires paramedics to care for patients rather than hand them over to an emergency department.

The union said Health Minister Stephen Wade and Premier Steven Marshall were “well aware of the risk” to the community but have “done nothing” to address safe staffing levels needed for timely ambulance responses.

Mr Wade said it was “a bit rich” for the unions to blame the state government, claiming “industrial awards” were “holding back” reform.

“We’re very keen to sit down with AEA to talk to them about reformed resources for the ambulance service so it can meet the challenges of the future,” he told reporters on Sunday.

“The whole process has been stalled by their industrial tactics.

“It’s not just a matter of putting more money into the services, it’s making sure the money we spend is targeted so it can be effective of meeting a need.”

Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton said the state government “turned its back” on paramedics’ warnings for years, and their pleas should not be ignored.

“This unprecedented step of an open letter to the South Australian public is a clear sign the situation has become dire,” Mr Picton said.

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