The need to know how to properly use complex medical technology while making life-or-death decisions about patient care make a national registration system for paramedics essential.
Ambulance Employees Association of Victoria secretary Steve McGhie says patient safety and the need for access to high standard care anywhere in Australia demands a recognised national standard for paramedics. There is now no nationally consistent standard for assessing paramedics’ qualifications, either from interstate or overseas, and no national standard for safe care in practice. There is not even agreement on who can call themselves a paramedic, says McGhie, pictured.
This is despite the creation in 2009 of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme that covers 14 health professions, but not paramedics.
"At the front line of emergency medicine, paramedics every day are responsible for life or death decisions," says McGhie. "Technological advances are forever increasing the complexity of care paramedics provide. Other medical professionals are registered, from doctors through to Chinese medicine practitioners, yet paramedics who daily conduct high risk procedures, are not."
McGhie says the growing number of private employers working outside traditional state models of paramedic services mean it is urgent that Australia adopts consistent, high level national standards. In a letter to the Federal Health Minister, Peter Dutton and his Victorian counterpart David Davis, McGhie said there were two main reasons national registration was essential.
"First and foremost, to ensure the highest quality of safe and efficient care to the community by ensuring a nationally-based effective and efficient quality assurance system is created for the delivery of paramedic services," he wrote. "Secondly, to adequately protect health service users within Australia from harm arising from individuals who breach legal and professional obligations."
The two criteria which must be met before inclusion in the national scheme are that the profession undertakes high risk interventions, and that actual harm has been shown to result for patients. In 2010, following revelations about four patient deaths resulting from inadequate ambulance responses the WA Government proposed to the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council that paramedics be included in the national register.
Inclusion in the national standard would mean compulsory and independent accreditation of training and education would apply, compared to the lack of regulation that applies now. It would also provide consistent probity and criminal history checks as a condition of practice.
"It’s the Australian public that stands to gain most from national registration," says McGhie. "And since our members and their families are also consumers of health care we all stand to benefit. Adverse events have occurred in the past and the increasing complexity of care only heightens the risk of them happening in future. National registration is about addressing that risk.”
For further information, contact Steve McGhie, Secretary, Ambulance Employees Australia - Victoria on 0425 755 906.