Mr MORRIS IEMMA (Lakemba—Premier, Minister for State Development, and Minister for Citizenship) [2.21 p.m.]: The Ambulance Service of New South Wales this month celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of the introduction of paramedics into the service. Sixteen officers graduated from what we now know as Course 1 Paramedics, and in November 1976 they commenced duty at Circular Quay Ambulance Station. That class of '76 were pioneers in every sense of the word. New South Wales was the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce paramedics into its Ambulance Service. Initially the concept of having ambulance officers being capable of treating cardiac arrest and other emergencies without the help of doctors and nurses met with much criticism from the medical fraternity. However, with the strength and determination of a select few the Advanced Life Support Course was born.
Mr Brad Hazzard: That is what your Government needs.
Mr MORRIS IEMMA: More paramedics? We are recruiting more paramedics. Since that first paramedic course in 1976, 56 further paramedic courses have been completed. Among the 2,900 ambulance officers employed by the Ambulance Service of New South Wales today, nearly one-third are fully trained intensive care paramedics. Paramedics treat everything from heart attacks to chemical accidents, childbirth, diving emergencies, and much more. They have literally hundreds of pieces of equipment at their fingertips, including facilities to give oxygen, put up drips, or resuscitate a patient. The Ambulance Service is a 24-hour-a-day seven-day-a-week operation. It responds to calls for assistance every 33 seconds—an average of 2,500 responses every day.
The Ambulance Service does a phenomenal job, often in very difficult circumstances. Thousands of people in the community owe their lives to the high level clinical care provided by staff of the Ambulance Service of New South Wales. Today the Minister for Health hosted a reception in Parliament House for the 1976 Course 1 Paramedics graduates and their partners. He thanked them for their years of service and recognised the magnificent legacy that they have created in patient care in New South Wales. I join him in congratulating those pioneers and everyone who has contributed, and continues to contribute, to the care provided by the Ambulance Service of New South Wales.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER (North Shore) [2.56 p.m.]: The Coalition joins the Government in congratulating the pioneers of paramedic services. The Coalition also congratulates current members of the New South Wales Ambulance Service. In fact, ambulance officers most frequently contact me to complain about the Iemma Government's cuts to resources provided for medical services in New South Wales. I am extremely grateful for their courage in coming forward, particularly at a time when the Government is all about secrecy and hiding the level of problems in our system.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will come to order. Government members will come to order.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: I draw attention in particular to the single-manned vehicles in the Maitland-Hunter area. A number of paramedics and ambulance officers have complained to me that they are unable to respond as they would like because they do not have a second ambulance officer in the vehicle.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Ministers will cease interjecting.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: The Premier can try to drown me out, as he does ambulance officers when they come forward to complain about the Iemma Government's lack of support for the Ambulance Service of New South Wales. My colleagues frequently tell me stories about patients in the back of ambulances waiting far too long for treatment, or patients stuck in emergency departments because ambulance officers cannot get them off their trolleys.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is too much audible conversation in the Chamber.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: I am happy to inform the House that on 4 July this year I had personal experience of that problem. Those fabulous ambulance officers attended to me when I had an accident. They took me to Royal North Shore Hospital, rolled up their sleeves and waited for the long wait that they expected before they could offload me.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will come to order.
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: Unfortunately, ambulance officers cannot leave their patients in emergency departments because they are so blocked, and not enough beds are open in the wards to take them. I take my hat off to the men and women in our Ambulance Service, the paramedics of 30 years ago and the paramedics in our system now.
Mr Frank Sartor: No, you don't!
Mrs JILLIAN SKINNER: Minister Sartor likes to shout, but he knows that 30 years ago paramedics had it good compared with today.