Country Ambulance Strategy Updates

In 2016 the WA Country Health Service Board endorsed the need for the development of a strategy to ensure the Country Ambulance Service meets the needs of regional communities.

The first phase was the development of the draft Country Ambulance Strategy. The draft Strategy is the result of consultation with key stakeholders who use and run ambulance services in country communities. It also recognises the tremendous and valuable commitment of WA’s ambulance volunteers.

The draft Strategy makes 19 recommendations under six key themes aiming to deliver a strengthened and sustainable ambulance service into the future. These include increasing investment in community paramedics, improvements to communications and technology, volunteer support and service improvement with increasing transparency and accountability.

A major recommendation is the implementation of a policy framework to set a foundation for the future and ensure consistent standards across all communities.

 

Public Consultation

The Minister for Health announced the completion of the draft Strategy in September 2018 and invited the public to have their say. The public consultation closed in December 2018. The feedback will be used to shape the final Strategy to ensure the provision of a sustainable and strengthened ambulance services for country communities into the future.

The volume of feedback received is indicative of how important the service is, and we thank the hundreds of people across WA who have contributed so far.

The final Strategy is expected to be released in coming months, with implementation commencing. It is recognised there is a lot of work to do in progressing the recommendations, so this will occur in stages.  

Provision of feedback is now closed.

Over the consultation period, WA Country Health Service received 27 submissions and 937 people provided feedback through a structured survey.

Submissions

Anonymous
C. Dadd
North Eastern Wheatbelt Regional Organisation of Councils
Paramedicine Consulting
R. Bange
Shire of Halls Creek
Shire of Laverton
St. John Ambulance WA
T. Prout
United Voice Ambulance Union WA
Western Australian Local Government Association - Central Country Zone
Western Australian Local Government Association - North Country Zone
Wheatbelt East Regional Organisation of Councils

Please note that the above only includes submissions where permission has been given for public release.

 

What’s Happening Now?

The feedback received during public consultation is now being reviewed and incorporated into, the final Strategy. This will then be submitted to the Minister for Health. Work on policy development is already underway.

A plan is being developed to guide the next stages to meet and action the recommendations.

 

Contact Us

Contact the Project team at CountryAmbulanceStrategy@health.wa.gov.au

 

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

What are the next stages of implementation of the Country Ambulance Strategy?

Public consultation on the draft Strategy was open for 10 weeks with 27 submissions received and 937 people provided feedback through the survey.

The feedback received from the public consultation period is being reviewed for incorporation into the final Strategy. The final Strategy will be submitted to the Minister for Health for consideration. The WA Country Health Service is planning for the phased implementation of agreed recommendations to commence in the first half of 2019.

You can stay informed on progress by checking this website for regular updates.

 

Why is this strategy different to the reviews that have occurred in the past 20 years?

Previous reviews have identified the complexity around the availability, safety, viability and sustainability of the current model of ambulance services. Building on the previous reviews, this Strategy takes a different approach, focusing on the country ambulance service, and what is needed to strengthen the service into the future, and to define what communities can expect.

 

The draft Strategy recommends more community paramedics. Where will these community paramedics be located?

A big focus of the Strategy is ensuring that the right services are provided both where they are needed. WA Country Health Service will work closely with St John Ambulance to ensure that any additional workforce and resourcing is placed where they are most needed.

 

Should all ambulance services be fully staffed by paramedics?

The Country Ambulance Service is complex and varies from location to location. Some country areas have ambulance that can respond to more than 3000 calls each year, while others may respond to 10 calls per year. Having paramedics stationed in locations that don’t receive a high number of calls is not sustainable for the communities, nor for the professional development and skills maintenance of the paramedics.

The Country Ambulance Service has grown as a result of community commitment and drive to meet local needs. This is invaluable to communities not just for emergency response, but also in supporting local events and first aid training. Volunteers are an essential component in the strength and diversity of the service, and in building community resilience.

The Strategy work will review activity and demand. This will include looking at the need for changes to staffing which will be costed and submitted for consideration by the State Government.

 

Is the Strategy intended as a criticism of the current service provider?

No. The Strategy is clear that policy, contracts and investment are the primary focus for improving the Country Ambulance Service.

WA Country Health Service and St John Ambulance have worked closely together for many decades to ensure that country communities have a high quality ambulance service. We continue to value the vital role of staff and volunteers, many of whom had input into the consultation through the 120 meetings held at 40 towns and through videoconferencing and email.

We will continue to work closely with St John Ambulance as we implement this Strategy to strengthen country ambulance services into the future.

 

The draft Strategy states that Sub-Centres have been established based on historical and community drivers, not demand and requirements. Are you intending to close any of the existing Sub Centres?

No. All Sub Centres are valuable to their communities. The current number and locations of the Sub Centres means that WA has more response locations per capita than any other state except Tasmania. There are no plans to close any existing services. The Strategy contains recommendations on how to provide meaningful support to volunteers so that we can strengthen the Country Ambulance Service and ensure the right services are provided in the right locations for communities.

 

Does the recommendation to transfer the contract management to WACHS mean that WACHS will run the ambulance service?

No. This recommendation suggests WACHS becomes the contract manager and not the operator of the service.  Currently the contract for metropolitan and country ambulance services is managed by the Department of Health. If WACHS were to manage the contract there would be a more effective working relationship between the ambulance provider and WACHS, which is the public health service provider in the country WA and relies on effective patient transport to ensure safe, quality patient care

This already occurs with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), where WACHS is the contract manager and RFDS provides the service for patients.

 

Does ‘Value for Money’ mean cost cutting to the ambulance service?

There is no expectation that costs will reduce as a result of the Strategy. The focus is to ensure sustainable and equitable services are delivered across the State with resources in the right place to support care where it’s most needed into the future.

 

The report recommends that all volunteers must hold nationally recognised qualifications provided by an accredited training body. What does this mean?

We know that the job of a volunteer ambulance officer can be stressful and demanding. That’s why the draft Strategy recommends that volunteers are better supported through training, education and career pathways. We have heard that training is valuable, but needs to consider the volunteer nature of the service, competing demands on volunteer’s time and needs to be offered through flexible options.

There is no intention to impede the work current volunteers do. Any changes to how volunteer ambulance officers are trained will recognise the significant skill and experience of the current volunteers. There will be further consultation for any changes to the training model or opportunities, with communication provided as it progresses.

 

How much will it cost to implement the Strategy?

The Country Ambulance Strategy is being finalised and will be fully costed for consideration by State Government.

 

How can I find out what is happening with implementation of the Strategy?

Stay in touch with the progress and implementation of the Country Ambulance Strategy by checking this website for regular updates.

 

I have a specific question about the Country Ambulance Strategy public consultation. How can I get in touch?

You can email the project team here

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