THE ambulance service of the Dominic Morgan’s future will not necessarily take sick patients to the emergency department.
Ambulance call-outs are ever-increasing, as is pressure on hospital emergency departments, while state and federal governments try to rein in the rising cost of health.
Mr Morgan, who is chief executive of Ambulance Tasmania, said the answer was a service that didn’t just take patients to hospital, but also referred them on to primary health services or offered treatment on the spot.
He said the changing health landscape would likely see the public become more involved in emergency response, and information technology would change the way ambulance service was run.
Mr Morgan said that already, about 20 per cent of ambulance call-outs in Tasmania did not require transport to hospital.
‘‘There’s a number of conditions that paramedics will actually treat quite definitively in the field,’’ he said.
Mr Morgan said a recent trial of an extended-care paramedic model in Launceston saw up to 69 per cent of patients referred to other services – such as a GP, or an asthma clinic – and AT would make a submission to Treasury for the permanent introduction of a similar program.
‘‘The extended care paramedics were paramedics who had a slightly extended skill-set that allowed them to deal with a lot more patients actually in the place where the patient was, rather than taking them to the acute health system,’’ Mr Morgan said.
He said further innovative responses like the ECP program would be needed to meet rising demand, before resorting to the more expensive option of increasing the size of the workforce.
The service recently introduced a $1.3 million in-vehicle information system that will provide paramedics with patient information and driving directions in real-time, saving vital minutes.
Mr Morgan said they had also launched an access to defibrillation program, which has seen more than 200 defibrillators owned by individuals, workplaces and community groups registered with the organisation.
It means that when there is a case of cardiac arrest, AT can contact owners of nearby registered machines so they can offer defibrillation before an ambulance arrived.
Mr Morgan said the initiative would save lives, and he expected it wouldn’t be the last community partnership program introduced by AT.
‘‘The costs of healthcare in the developed world are becoming unsustainable, and the more that we can engage more broadly with the community and harness those resources, the better it’s going to be for everyone,’’ he said.
Soon AT will have to make further adjustments to manage a state government savings ask, but Mr Morgan said the total figure had not yet been finalised.
He said that over the next six weeks he would hold about 14 sessions with staff across the state to discuss savings strategies.
‘‘Regardless of what the ask is, it’s probably not a bad idea to come back and say, ‘are there smarter ways that we can be managing our business anyway?’,’’ Mr Morgan said.
‘‘At the end of the day, nothing changes in terms of the community rings triple-0, and the closest ambulance will come,’’ he said.
Mr Morgan, who moved back to Tasmania from Sydney more than five years ago, said he hoped to stick around for a while yet.
‘‘I could have spent my entire career in New South Wales trying to push the leviathan that that organisation is, slightly to the left,’’ Mr Morgan said.
‘‘Tasmania is much more agile. We have the ability because of our size to move quickly on innovation and ideas.
‘‘In so many ways I’ve been able to say, ‘I really think we should try this’, and pretty much without exception it’s been, ‘‘OK, let’s give it a try’.
‘‘It’s immensely rewarding.’’
Ambulance Tasmania chief executive Dominic Morgan
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