Ms JODI McKAY (Strathfield) [10.56 a.m.]: As indicated by previous speakers from the Opposition, the Opposition will not oppose the Heath Services Amendment (Paramedics) Bill 2015. The bill will align New South Wales with Tasmania and South Australia in regulating the use of the term "paramedic". At present there is no restriction on the use of this term, which causes obvious issues with people being able to call themselves a paramedic without needing to complete sufficient training. In a profession that deals daily with life and death, it is in the interests of our community to ensure that all paramedics are trained and qualified to the standards that we would expect.
The bill amends the Health Services Act 1997 to "prevent a person who does not have recognised qualifications, training or experience from holding himself or herself out to be a paramedic". Practically speaking, upon assent of the bill it will be an offence for a person to hold themselves out to be a paramedic unless they meet strict criteria. A paramedic will mean: first, a person who holds qualifications, or who has received training, or who has experience, prescribed by the regulations; secondly, a person who is authorised under the legislation of another Australian jurisdiction to hold himself or herself out to be a paramedic; or, thirdly, a member of staff of the Ambulance Service of NSW or other person who is authorised by the health secretary to hold himself or herself out to be a paramedic. This is a small and symbolic but nonetheless important change that will ensure the public has every confidence in our Ambulance Service. I am pleased to support it, as I am all sensible legislation in this area.
In March this year I was elected as the member for Strathfield, and almost immediately after announcing my candidacy I was inundated with concerns about local health services from members of the public—in particular, concerns about the impact of significant growth and development in my local area on health infrastructure and health services delivery. Hardly a day goes by without my office getting a call about local health services. That issue is raised regularly with me when I go doorknocking or hold public meetings. The concerns raised are varied, ranging from accessing mental health services to waiting lists at my local hospital, Concord Hospital, and, yes, the availability and response time of ambulances. Our ambos do a wonderful job, and they deserve a government that gives them the resources and support they need. I fear they are not getting that support.
The facts do not lie. Every day around 3,300 calls are made to 000—one every 26 seconds. The average number of ambulance responses increased by 1.3 per cent from 2012-13 to 2013-14.
Each year ambulances respond to more than 1.2 million call-outs across New South Wales. Sydney has the unenviable distinction of having the longest response time for ambulances of any capital city, and with surges of population growth, as in my area, this is sure to get worse. Response times are also increasing—in 2005-06 it was 9.5 minutes, and in 2013-14 it was 10.8 minutes. This means more people are being put at risk. Not only do we need to change the definition of a paramedic, as this legislation does, but also we need more of them.
Last year Unions NSW launched a campaign calling for an extra 250 paramedics to be recruited in New South Wales. This would go a long way towards ameliorating the delays in ambulances attending medical emergencies. I put on record my support for this campaign and implore the Government to listen to ambos who are desperately seeking more resources. But the need for health resources does not stop there. Members will all be familiar with the term "trolley blocking"—namely, where ambulances are tied up at emergency departments waiting with patients to be admitted. An ambulance cannot be redeployed on the road until that happens. It is not only our ambulance service that is suffering; our emergency wards and local hospitals are also suffering. That is little wonder in view of this Government's $3 billion cut to health and hospitals in its last term in office—
Mr Kevin Conolly: Point of order: The member is flouting the Acting-Speaker's ruling. She is continuing to exceed the generous leave that has been allowed in debate of this bill. The member is now talking about other issues relating to hospitals that are not remotely connected to the term "paramedic", which is the focus of this bill. I ask that the member for Strathfield be directed to return to the leave of the bill.
ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr Adam Marshall): Order! I remind all members that I have ruled that their remarks should be confined to the leave of the bill. However, latitude has been granted both in this and in other debates by previous occupants of the Chair. I will continue to listen closely to the remarks of the member for Strathfield. Up to this point the member has been generally relevant to the bill and not outside the latitude that has been granted to previous speakers.
Ms JODI McKAY: Thank you. In my local area this problem is intensifying. Concord Hospital is my local hospital. The staff members at that hospital do a wonderful job; they are caring, skilled and professional. I take this opportunity to acknowledge those hardworking staff and thank them for the high standards they maintain in looking after our community. Labor recognised that this hospital was stretched and when I visited the hospital recently I spoke to some paramedics who were waiting in the ambulance bays at the emergency department. In the lead-up to the last election Labor committed $323 million to redevelop the hospital, including a commitment to provide world-class cancer care at the hospital. This was a responsible and future-proofing commitment because the electorates of Strathfield and Drummoyne have the fastest growing populations in this State.
The Government is planning to build approximately 60,000 new dwellings along Parramatta Road, and 43 per cent of those will be in my electorate. This will mean the addition of 130,000 people to the current council local environmental plan. One of the criticisms of this proposal is that the Government has not committed to the necessary health infrastructure to accompany this significant population growth. I have spoken to the Minister for Planning and he has agreed that the issues around appropriate health infrastructure will be looked at. I am very appreciative of that, but my constituents have raised this as a matter of concern time and again with me. Unfortunately, the Government has only committed $150 million to upgrade Concord Hospital. My constituents want the Concord Hospital to be able to cater for the increased population growth in our area but, disappointingly, that was not forthcoming in the last State budget.
I have said in this place before, as well as making my views known to my community and in the local media, that with the predicted population growth in my electorate it is imperative that we have appropriate health infrastructure. I implore the Government to consider how it proposes to respond to that significant growth. This will also require a considerable funding commitment to Concord Hospital. As I said earlier, the Opposition will support this bill but it wants more to be done in Health, particularly in funding. For instance, we need more ambos, more emergency doctors, more beds, more resources for mental health and more health resources for victims of domestic violence. Health is always one of the top issues raised by my constituents with me, because not enough is being done by this Government. This bill is a good initiative but I will continue to fight for more resources for my electorate and for the people of New South Wales. I commend the bill to the House.