Country Ambulance Strategy

The Minister for Health launched The Country Ambulance Strategy - Striving for Equity in Country WA in November 2019.

The strategy sets out 19 recommendations to help strengthen country ambulance services including:

  • measures to attract and support more ambulance volunteers
  • greater investment in community paramedics
  • improving coordination between hospitals and ambulance services
  • adopting new technologies to improve communication to and from every ambulance on the road

The strategy also recognises the tremendous and valuable commitment of WA’s ambulance volunteers.

Major initiatives that will potentially be implemented in 2020 include increased funding for community paramedics and boosting communication and technology to better coordinate planned transfers of country patients between hospitals.

Download The Country Ambulance Strategy - Striving for Equity in Country WA [PDF, 8.7MB]

Public Consultation

The strategy is the result of months of working closely with country communities. 120 community workshops and a three-month public consultation phase saw close to 1000 submissions received from the thousands of community members, ambulance volunteers, health providers and stakeholders who were invited to take part.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions - FAQs

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

Phased implementation will begin immediately. 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 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 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 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 long will it take to implement the Strategy?

Some of the Strategy’s recommendations can be actioned in the short term with major initiatives expected to be implemented in 2020. These potentially include increased funding for community paramedics and boosting communication and technology to better coordinate planned transfers of country patients between hospitals. The Strategy also contains recommendations that will take longer due to their complexity and need for further consultation and input from key stakeholders.

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.

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