TAKE-OFF: The nurses’ union has backed John Hunter Hospital in a dispute with paramedics on the Westpac rescue helicopter, raising the disagreement to a new level. Picture: Max Mason-HubersRELATED: Rescue chopper hits turbulence over hospital rule
THE nurses’ union has sided with John Hunter Hospital management in a dispute with paramedics on the Westpac rescue helicopter.
It comes after the Newcastle Herald reported the Health Services Union was pushing for Hunter New England Health to change its policies to allow paramedics to transfer patients between hospitals, known as secondary missions.
The HSU said John Hunter’s long-standing protocol had led to lengthy delays in responding to emergencies.
It wants the helicopter’s paramedics to perform both types of missions, but the hospital has resisted changing the decades-old rule, citing the “unique” medical demands of the health district.
It also cited the need to have the “best-equipped” medical staff for the inter-hospital transfer of critical patients.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association said on Thursdayclaims the rescue chopper’s two-tier structure was risking lives was an insult.
‘We depend, as do many outlying areas throughout Newcastle, on the helicopter to respond in the matter that they want to as quickly as possible’: Port Stephens MP Kate Washington.
“The assertion by the HSU that lives are being put at risk …is insulting to the hardworking and highly skilled nurses and doctors who coordinate these call outs,” acting general secretary Judith Kiejda said.
“Doctor and nurse teams in the Retrieval Service are specifically trained in equipment, treatments and procedures that patients require, including complex ventilations, neurosurgical interventions, complex medication regimes, paediatric high-flow oxygen and non-invasive ventilations, which are not part of a paramedic’s standing protocols.”
However, Port Stephens MP and Labor’s Hunter spokeswoman Kate Washington said it “made no sense” for HNEH to applyinconsistent policies in the same health district, noting thatparamedics perform patient transfers on the Tamworth rescue chopper.
“Why should we be any different,” she asked.
“I have heard they can have an additional 45 minutes turnaround to change the chopper from hospital retrieval to a rescue.
“That puts lives at risk.
“We depend, as do many outlying areas throughout Newcastle, on the helicopter to respond in the matter that they want to as quickly as possible.”
Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen echoed the concerns of paramedics, stressing that the Belmont-based rescue helicopter was “extremely important” to ruralcommunities.
“It is not practical to have such rigid guidelines for such an area,” Mr Johnsen said.
However, Ms Kiejda said it was precisely because of the region’s size that the rescue chopper maintained the nursing crew for secondary transfers.
“John Hunter Hospital is the only tertiary referral centre for adults and paediatric patients in this vast area,” she said.
“Therefore, when transferring these critical care patients, these doctor-nurse teams become a mobile intensive care unit, providing a unique skill set.”
Ms Kiejda added: “By utilising two different types of crews, response times have improved as both the doctor-nurse teams and the doctor-paramedic teams can be deployed simultaneously to different situations.
“In addition, if the Rescue Helicopter Service is already deployed, there are other helicopters in Sydney, Tamworth and Lismore that can be deployed.”