Should Australia’s Fire Engines Also Be Ambulances?

Around Australia, our most essential workers are stretched eggshell thin. Our teachers are getting burnt out at an alarming rate, and less doctors are jumping into the general practice arena. 

Moreover, South Australia’s ambulance service isn’t immune from this phenomenon. This can be demonstrated in the fact that a 47-year-old man died of chest pain here after waiting 42 minutes for an ambulance. According to Adelaide Now, this situation may have been caused by the ambulance service being at capacity. 

This caused the Premier, Peter Malinauskas, to consider a huge outside the box solution. As per the ABC, he’s creating a taskforce to review if the state’s firefighters could formally respond to some medical emergencies. Here’s everything that we’ve learnt about what the Premier is planning:

Some Top-Notch Experts Are on This Taskforce

The South Australia’s taskforce is being made up of SA Ambulance Service’s CEO, Rob Elliott, and Metropolitan Fire Service’s chief officer, Michael Morgan. The Health Minister, Chris Picton, and union representatives will also be joining in. InDaily has reported that Malinauskas wants them to unpack “what all the options are and what can be done.”

Fortunately, Malinauskas doesn’t want them to speed through this process. “This is a complex exercise because the last thing we want to do is rush towards a solution which might sound great on paper, but actually has unintended consequences,” he noted. Malinauskas then went on to state, “Nonetheless, it’s an idea worthy of thorough investigation.”

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How Are South Australia’s Firefighters Reacting to This News?

While the establishment of the Premier’s taskforce might make sense, South Australian firefighters are already doing this job. As the United Firefighters Union SA’s secretary, Max Adlam, said, “Make no mistake, this is already happening.” Adlam additionally noted, “We estimate it’s gone up something like 60 per cent in the last 12 months – the numbers of ambulance assist calls that have been put through.” 

Additionally, while Adlam is in favour of firefighters responding to ambulance calls, she said that the SA Ambulance Service should train them if a partnership becomes formalised. This is because some fighters are currently not prepared for the medical emergencies they’re entering. “Often they are racing to these cases not knowing what they’ll be confronted with, not being prepared in some cases without the proper equipment in the trucks or in their kits,” she explained.

Country Fire Service’s chief officer, Mark Jones, has made some similar comments to that of Adlam’s. Although, he might be more apprehensive about such a scheme. Jones has asserted, “Our volunteers are routinely called upon to attend traumatic events beyond the scope of their firefighting duties and these jobs fall outside of most people’s expectations when they join the service.”

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