Paramedics are concerned that a month-long trial closure of the emergency department to ambulances at Blayney District Hospital could put lives at risk.
The closure, initiated before Christmas, means ambulances are being diverted to either Orange or Bathurst hospitals, approximately 35 kilometres and 37 kilometres away respectively.
Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes claimed the additional travel time was in contravention of statewide ambulance protocols and would place an additional burden on the town’s already “exhausted” paramedics.
“Paramedics at Blayney are already dealing with an intense workload, including being forced to do eight consecutive 10-hour shifts, while also being on call overnight,” Mr Hayes said.
“With the Blayney crew being forced to bypass Blayney, that means every job will be a long-distance transfer.
“This will mean a massive increase to the existing workload without any extra resources or even a risk management strategy.”
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Mr Hayes said the impact would be felt by patients too, and an absence of consultation beforehand had led to a lack of specifics around which cases would be sent north to Orange, east to Bathurst, or treated on-site in Blayney.
“With the only local ambulance crew forced to spend more time in transit, people in the Blayney area will be more likely to be without an available ambulance crew over the busy Christmas and New Year period,” he said.
Every job will be a long-distance transfer.Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes
“It is still unclear as to what type of presentations will be accepted at Blayney, and what presentations will be sent to Orange or Bathurst.”
Mr Hayes said paramedics were concerned that the state government may be planning to extend the trial at the Osman Street facility to other country hospitals across the state.
“Local communities rely on their local hospitals and ambulance services, and they must be protected,” he said.