A Paramedic student in WA is
… concerned about job prospects in this competitive industry within Australia. I’d love to view your thoughts on Paramedic registration and what that will mean for services that rely heavily on volunteers in regional and remote areas (SJAWA, SAAS). Will there be a push for these services to fill these positions with career paramedics? Or have ambulance volunteers been incorporated to allow said services to continue operations as usual?
Also, if you could please shed some light, I am also curious as to why WA and NT contract private companies to provide pre-hospital care as opposed to a government run organisations like the remainder of states in Australia.
I’ll answer these questions in reverse order. First, I don’t know why WA and NT continue to rely on private providers rather than providing government operated services. One can imagine it has much to do with distance and no doubt costs and they think the public are getting as good or better service than they would with a government run service for the same, or less cost. St John Ambulance, in particular, has led the development of ambulance services in Australia but over time the governments have stepped in to take over the provision of ambulance services. Having said that, I am not aware of the history of ambulance services in WA or the current thinking of the WA and NT governments. I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of regular correspondents to this blog won’t be able to shed some light on the question ‘why WA and NT contract private companies to provide pre-hospital care as opposed to a government run organisations’?
As for the first question, paramedic registration won’t make any difference. Registration under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law does not define scope of practice, it merely restricts who can use the title. The regulation of paramedics doesn’t go any way to regulating ambulance services or imposing quality or service standards. It doesn’t compel an ambulance service, such as St John Ambulance Australia (WA) to employ paramedics in its ambulance services.
What registration will mean is that only registered paramedics will be able to call themselves paramedics. An ambulance service can still use volunteers, but everyone will know if they are not called ‘paramedic’ they are not a registered paramedic with the minimum qualifications and professional oversight that registration brings. Whether there will be a ‘push for these services to fill these positions with career paramedics’ will depend on the will of the electorate. If people demand a paramedic service, that can only be provided with registered paramedics. It should however be noted that a paramedic doesn’t have to be a career paramedic, a person could be a volunteer registered paramedic.
The short answer is therefore that registration of paramedics will not require ambulance services to staff their service with paramedics. They can use people with other qualifications and volunteers. Whether that is acceptable to the community remains to be seen.