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Speech - Recognition of NSW Paramedics

23rd November, 2023.

By leave: I come to this debate with a different point of view to look at the professional recognition that ambulance workers receive. On 30 November 2018 paramedicine became a regulated profession. The terms "paramedic" and "paramedicine" became protected by law, and only people registered with the Paramedicine Board of Australia are able to call themselves a paramedic. The national board chair, Associate Professor Stephen Gough, ASM, described it as a milestone for the paramedicine profession. After many years of debate, deliberation and sustained effort, paramedics will be joining over 700,000 other registered health practitioners in a national regulatory scheme that has public safety at its heart. Associate Professor Gough said:

While paramedics have always had the patient at the centre of everything they do – showing compassion, understanding and empathy to those they provide care – the past two decades have also seen the profession grow in complexity; paramedics are now working in a range of roles and environments, using sophisticated treatments and technology, to provide world class services to Australian communities. Regulating paramedicine under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme … acknowledges the critical role paramedics play in our health system and recognises paramedics, in their own right, as registered health professionals.

Paramedics have a couple of ways to become qualified, and most now have a degree and many have post-graduate qualifications. As I quoted, they work with increasingly complex clinical situations and carry out many public health tasks. This change has evolved over the past couple of years. As registered health professionals, they follow codes of conduct and complete ongoing professional development, which they pay for on top of registration costs every year.

As we know, their pay rate in New South Wales falls well below the average ordinary weekly earnings for males and females. We have all heard about the shortage of health professionals, but if we continue to pay paramedics such poor rates then they will also leave. They are the ones who administer drugs and look after people on stretchers, waiting for the scarce doctors and nurses to be ready for a handover. If they leave to go to other States where they will receive better pay or leave the service totally, where does that leave the people of New  South Wales? We all need to consider that when you or a family member are in the most dire and stressful situations, they are most likely to be the people whose efforts make the difference between life and death. Whether delivering a baby, rushing to help a person suffering a heart attack or climbing into danger to comfort a person trapped in a car after an accident, these are the people we rely on. I know many do it for the love of the job, but what value do we put on what they do? I think all members will agree that we are not demonstrating that we value them with such poor pay. I thank paramedics, especially those in my electorate of Wollondilly, for all the wonderful work they do.