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  • Jason Regan

Patients in NSW wait longer for ambulances

Ambulances in NSW are taking longer to reach patients due to a critical shortage of paramedics.

A Productivity Commission report released on Tuesday shows the median emergency response time in NSW is 12.5 minutes - the second-slowest in the country over the 2020-21 reporting period.

Tasmania performed the worst with a median response time of 14 minutes, while ambulances in the ACT recorded the fastest median response time of nine minutes.

"Our emergency response times are a full two minutes slower than comparable jurisdictions like Victoria and Queensland," Australian Paramedics Association NSW president Chris Kastelan said.
"In an emergency situation, those minutes really matter. 
"The likelihood of survival for a cardiac event can drop by 10 per cent for each minute treatment is delayed."

The report found NSW was chronically understaffed with only 48.6 paramedics available per 100,000 people, ranking as the second-worst state. Per capita, NSW has a third fewer paramedics compared to better performing states such as Queensland and Tasmania.

A spokesperson for NSW Ambulance said despite surging demand on ambulance services, call response times for the neediest remain under ten minutes. In the 2020-21 reporting period the agency responded to 1.2 million calls. 

Emergency responses increased 3.7 per cent and urgent responses grew 4.6 per cent.

"Despite this significant increase, we continue to respond to our most critical, Priority 1A cases, well under the benchmark of ten minutes," the spokesperson said.

An increase in demand is a major strategic focus for NSW Ambulance, as well as ongoing pressures presented by the pandemic, including time taken to put on and remove PPE.

During the Delta outbreak, NSW Ambulance "fast-tracked more than 160 new paramedics to meet this demand". The spokesperson added 294 graduates have recently been employed, 214 of which have started their induction, the rest of which start later in February.

The government has spent $9 billion on NSW Ambulance since 2011 and hired 1160 paramedics in that time. The 2021/22 budget includes $1.4 billion for ambulance services.


TAS: 14 mins

NSW: 12.5 mins

SA: 12.5 mins

QLD: 10.5 mins

VIC: 10.3 mins

NT: 9.5 mins

WA: 9.4 mins

ACT: 9 mins

SOURCE: Productivity Commission


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