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ACT Ambulance Service to get more paramedics to meet 'significant demand' in $27 million funding boost

By Niki Burnside
Posted , updated 
Ambulance outside Canberra Hospital emergency department
Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman acknowledged paramedics had been experiencing "significant demand".(ABC News: Penny McLintock)

Canberra is set to get more intensive care paramedics under a new funding boost, a month after it was revealed firefighters were being deployed to low-risk ambulance call-outs, due to staff shortages.

Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman said an additional $27.6 million in funding from the upcoming ACT budget would go towards a range of initiatives within the ACT Ambulance Service, including additional intensive care paramedics and professional development opportunities for existing staff.

In announcing the funding commitment, which will be rolled out over four years, the ACT government said it would also provide additional triple-0 call centres.

Paramedics experiencing 'significant demand'

Last month, it was revealed ACT Fire and Rescue crews were being used for low-risk ambulance call-outs, due to a shortage of ambulance staff thanks to a combination of factors, including illness.

At the time, Emergency Services Agency (ESA) Commissioner Georgeina Whelan said firefighters were rostered on to respond to ambulance call-outs over one Saturday night.

Ms Whelan said the unit did not respond to any emergencies in the most serious category — or priority one emergencies — over the weekend, and only dealt with emergencies in the priority two category, for which they were trained.

However, the United Firefighters Union said it was a "concerning" situation and called on the ACT government to address the issue.

Today the government said the funding, to be formally announced in the August budget, would go some way towards addressing the growing needs of the ACT community, which, according to the latest census, is the fastest growing population in Australia.

Mr Gentleman said the service had been experiencing "significant demand".

"Our paramedics have been experiencing high demand recently with the ongoing pandemic in Canberra's growing population," Mr Gentleman said.

He said additional funding would deliver more than 20 new paramedics, as well as new communication centre staff, to take triple-0 calls.

Mr Gentleman said COVID-19 had impacted paramedic staff over the course of the pandemic and the funding was intended to improve their "wellbeing".

"They've done an incredible job in looking after our community and I really want to congratulate them for the work they do," he said.

"We do have some support from Fire and Rescue every now and again, with support structures, but they will never replace, of course, an ambulance.

"We need to recognise the pressures on our paramedics and the support that they need to continue to upskill and support the ACT community during difficult times."

Posted , updated