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Country towns left without ambos: union

A shortage of paramedics is leaving NSW country towns without ambulances while staff respond to emergencies or transport patients hundreds of kilometres away, the union says.

Australian Paramedics Association NSW vice president Scott Beaton, who is based in Gilgandra in western NSW, says there is also an 800 kilometre stretch between Dubbo and Broken Hill that does not have access to intensive care paramedics.

The state’s paramedics are two days into five days of industrial action, calling for pay rises and better staffing.

People who call an ambulance during the action will be cared for, but paramedics will not bill patients or leave their home stations.

Mr Beaton said paramedics often have to leave small town stations while they drive people to major hospitals, a job that should be done by patient transport services.

Gilgandra paramedics have been called to emergencies and patient transport jobs in Coonabarabran and Coonamble, 100 kilometres away, due to a lack of staff, he said.

“That leaves our town uncovered by ambulances,” Mr Beaton told AAP.

“We live in our regional communities. It could be our family members, or our friends, or anyone who’s in dire need of an ambulance and we’re not there because we’re stuck doing a routine transport.

“It really does affect you mentally to think that you’re letting your town down.”

The union is calling for more intensive care and extended care paramedics in rural areas, a gap highlighted by the recent parliamentary inquiry into regional healthcare.

Mr Beaton said many of those highly-trained paramedics are sent to regional cities like Dubbo, Orange and Coffs Harbour, leaving smaller communities vulnerable.

The specialist paramedics can get to rural and remote locations via helicopter, but time is critical, he said.

“It can be the difference between life and death.”

He called on the government to act on the inquiry’s 44 recommendations to improve the standard of healthcare in rural areas.

“There should be no reason why your postcode determines how good your medical care you get.”

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