Ambulance staff, from ambulance officers through to Intensive Care Ambulance Paramedics, have strongly argued that they should be recognised as healthcare professionals. Indeed, in many states they have been granted industrial recognition and remunerated as healthcare professionals. Since I started in the Australian ambulance industry, there has been an expectation that national professional recognition of paramedics is “just around the corner”.
For a long time, national registration seem to languish. In 2015, a decision for national professional recognition for ambulance staff was once again deferred. Yet, the industry chatter about registration continues, with expectations it will be a reality in 2017. The expectation is that, like any other clinical professional, Paramedics would need to be registered with the nationally recognised, federal government Australian Health Professional Registration Authority (AHPRA).
There is at least one commercial organisation that offers a form of national EMT registration in Australia, however most public and private organisations do not recognise its jurisdiction. While I support the concept of national registration, for it to have any real effect for the profession and the community, I believe it must be managed through AHPRA, not a private, for-profit organisation.
Why AHPRA? They are the organisation mandated by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to facilitate a single National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for registered health practitioners. In collaboration with National Health Practitioner Boards, they provide the official, national, one-stop shop for recognised health practitioners.
While registration focuses on the individual and assists with the credentialing process, I think it is time ambulance services, public and private, start to consider the next step in ambulance service evolution. Accreditation. Accreditation to ensure pre- hospital care systems and processes achieve what is expected of the Australian Commission for Safety and Quality in Health Care (ACSQHC)
As some of the largest healthcare employers in their respective states, and providing healthcare to hundreds of thousand of people every year, it only makes sense that at some stage, ACSQHC will turn their gaze upon the ambulance industry, much like they do with other healthcare facilities.
This makes sense. The ACSQHC national and clinical care standards should be applicable to all health care services, not just hospitals. So, I pose the question whether ambulance services are prepared for an accreditation type examination. My experiences across the health care industry suggest that accreditation is often a difficult and stressful time for healthcare facilities. It becomes exponentially more difficult when your organisation is not in a fixed location (ie: usually mobile), spread over a massive area and immediately respondable.
Accreditation of public and private ambulance services against national and clinical care standards will- and should- be introduced. When it will actually occur is another question but it will certainly happen after national professional recognition. Whenever that happens.
Craig has more than 25 years experience in health and emergency medical operational management, emergency planning, health service delivery and service redevelopment. His book “Time to Respond- leadership, management and operational effectiveness in the pre-hospital field” comes out in January 2016.
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