The upgrading of ambulance and paramedic services into regional, rural and remote areas will be the subject of a pilot program to be conducted in Victoria with the support of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Health Council.
The Advanced Paramedic Roles Implementation Pilot will trial new roles for paramedics in rural communities, in new settings such as urgent care and primary care complementing the work of GPs, nurse practitioners and other health workers.
Victoria’s Minister for Ambulance Services, Jill Hennessy, said the pilot will see paramedics go beyond their traditional roles responding to emergency cases – offering new career pathways and other opportunities. It will give rural communities better access to care when they need it.
The COAG Health Council has called on the Paramedicine Board of Australia to use the pilot program as a basis for development of a national model for service delivery into remote and rural areas.
The paramedic practitioner role is an innovative way of providing health care to small rural communities, where paramedics will work with community partners to prevent health problems before they become life-threatening.
The pilot will involve interested Paramedic Community Support Coordinators who work in small rural communities across Victoria. Paramedic Community Support Coordinators are professional paramedics who provide emergency care, but also provide training to first responders such as Ambulance Community Officers.
There are currently 16 Paramedic Community Support Coordinators working across rural Victoria, with recent additions based at Ouyen, Manangatang, Donald, Beaufort, Nagambie and Sale. Others are based at Tallangatta, Alexandra, Neerim South, Lavers Hill, Coleraine, Stawell, Omeo, Mallacoota, Hopetoun and Wedderburn.
The advanced paramedic pilot is the first step towards the establishment of a paramedic practitioner role in Victoria.
The advanced paramedic and paramedic practitioner role will work in partnership with other professions, including general practitioners and nurse practitioners, to provide quality health care in rural communities.
National Rural Health Alliance Board member, Peter O’Meara, said the trial could prove to be a blueprint for the delivery of future paramedic services into regional, rural and remote areas right across Australia.
“This paramedic practitioner trial will build on the international evidence supporting the safety and cost-effectiveness of community paramedic programs in rural areas and others populations with limited access to health services,” Peter said.
“Despite being a university-educated and nationally registered health profession, with its own unique set of knowledge and skills, paramedics are still the ‘forgotten health profession’. This paramedic practitioner trial will evaluate the extent to which paramedics can be part of innovative solutions to health access in rural and remote Australia.”