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Support for regulation of 'cowboy' paramedics

Published: 5:27AM Friday May 18, 2012 Source: Fairfax

  •  (Source: ONE News)
    Source: ONE News

A move to regulate more than 800 paramedics nationwide has the full support of a Waikato ambulance manager who says the proposed legislation will get rid of "cowboys" in the sector.

Hauraki Coromandel St John district operations manager Bruce MacDonald, an intensive care paramedic, said currently "anyone" could go around calling themselves a paramedic.

"And Joe Public wouldn't know the difference, so registration would put a stop to that," he said.

"We have seen some cowboys out there and this will at least isolate the wannabe medics who aren't operating correctly."

Ambulance New Zealand chief executive David Waters said paramedics made decisions and judgments that could affect a patient's health; they assessed complex needs after an accident or medical event.

"Paramedics manage patients in life-threatening situations and perform invasive procedures and dispense drugs on patients unable to give informed consent," Waters said.

"Therefore it is in the public interest that the health services delivered by paramedics be regulated under the [Health Practitioners Competence Assurance] Act."

He believed regulation would enable paramedics to act in their own right.

"Potentially it could also allow them to prescribe and deliver primary care in the community in line with the Government's requirement for 'Better, sooner, more convenient health care'."

All paramedics are supervised now by five medical practitioners who act as medical directors or advisers for individual ambulance services.

If regulated the sector would have one responsible authority (RA) made up of independent practitioners whose prime task is to ensure individual paramedics are competent and fit to practise.

Waters said regulation would cover health services delivered by paramedics practising at intermediate and advanced care levels who were able to perform invasive procedures and administer a range of drugs.

Paramedics work for ambulance services such as St John and Wellington Free along with the New Zealand Defence Force and private operators. There are 50 paramedics based in the St John central region, which covers Waikato.

Between July 2010 and June 2011 St John central region attended 113,308 emergency incidents and treated and transported 126,129 patients. During that time St John received 12 clinical complaints.

Waters said there was now no central database relating to concerns and complaints regarding clinical and competence issues of ambulance officers, but 46 complaints were received by the health and disability commissioner about ambulance services between 2004 and April 2009.

The decision on regulation now lies with Health Minister Tony Ryall.