Queensland ambulance merged with health

Branded by the Queensland Government as a “once in a generation review” the long awaited Keelty Report into Emergency Services was delivered recently.

In November 2012, the Minister for Emergency Services Jack Dempsey tasked former Police Commissioner Mick Keelty with the job of investigating Queensland Emergency Services. For the police service, the review was quite damning, hitting out at a culture of sexism within the force and describing the technology used as out-dated and ineffective. Out of all the services examined namely police, firefighters, prison and ambulance, Mr Keelty seems to believe that QAS has the least amount of problems. However, that’s not to say that there were no recommendations relating to the ambulance service. There were. Five in total. For paramedics the greatest change is the fact that Queensland Ambulance Service will now be amalgamated with Queensland Health. On October 1st, the ambulance service merged with the health department.

However, the report also recommends that the service will remain state- wide and maintain its own identity, ensuring its role is not lost. Although, United Voice expected this recommendation, there are grave concerns about the move, especially given the fact that there have been so many widely publicised problems in Queensland Health. The main concern is how will an ailing health department, which cannot pay its staff properly, run a first class ambulance service? The second major change for Queensland Ambulance Service is the recommendation that patient transport service is outsourced. There is nothing but a brief mention of PTS in the review but it’s quite clear what Mr Keelty’s views on the matter are. “…..The low barriers to entry evident in this segment of the business (including lower infrastructure and capital expenses and lower training requirements for staff) make it a compelling opportunity for contestability.” Unfortunately we all know from the Costello Report that contestability is just another name for privatisation and it looks like the government has already included PTS in its outsourcing plans. It’s even started at the PA Hospital, where a Victorian based company is currently employed on a trial basis.

However 90% of ambulance officers surveyed by the union are opposed to any outsourcing of PTS, citing it as a vital part of Queensland Ambulance Service. Those surveyed also agree that patient care will suffer if the service is privatised and lives may be put in danger if Queensland Patient Transport Service becomes a ‘glorified taxi service’. United Voice will be launching a campaign of opposition shortly against any move to privatise PTS. Although the main focus of the review in relation to Queensland Ambulance Service is on the amalgamation with health, the authors did touch on some other areas. The report also recommends improved access for paramedics to patient records, more opportunities to assist medical staff like administering injections or giving preventative health information. It also recommends that the important contributions of Local Ambulance Committees are ‘recognised and fostered’ and the goodwill already established among the community is developed.

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