Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for HEALTH, Mr BARNETT
Everyone in this place agrees Tasmania's paramedics do an incredible job, often under unthinkable circumstances. The coronial inquiry into the tragic death of paramedic Damian Crump highlighted the trauma and strain faced by these critical workers. For years, the Greens have called on your Government to introduce a program of regular psychological assessments for paramedics. In July, the coroner handed down her report and formally recommended this approach. It is a crucial step to give people much-needed support to make sure nobody falls through the cracks and to have a sustainable and healthy workforce.
Have you accepted the coroners recommendations? Will you commit to providing the extra resourcing needed for Ambulance Tasmania to provide formal mental health assessment and a support program for paramedics?
Mr Speaker, I thank the member for her question and her special interest in this matter. I also want to say upfront how important our paramedics are and Ambulance Tasmania and that is why we are investing record funds into our health system at $12 billion over the next four years more than $8 million a day. As to Ambulance Tasmania, as I shared yesterday, there are some 220 extra paramedics and officers since we came to government and just short of 50 in rural and regional areas. In terms of their work, it is fantastic and much appreciated.
As to the question regarding the coroner's report, that is something I will take on board and consider very carefully. When I have further advice to report with respect to that I am more than happy to update the House in terms of the Government's response.
Dr Woodruff - It has been a long time, minister, and those paramedics are working under intolerable circumstances now.
Mr BARNETT - If I have more information to provide I am more than happy to advice.
I would like to provide some more information I have to hand in terms of acknowledging those frontline responders. They go above and beyond, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they experience a range of very difficult situations. I have been there with them and support them incredibly.
In 2017 the state Government allocated $1.5 million each year for a new wellness program initiated by the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management, which Ambulance Tasmania is engaged with. The member asked about mental health and wellbeing and that is part of that response and as the minister himself has just noted, it is a great program. In 2019 Tasmania became the first jurisdiction in Australia to legislate a presumptive provision for workers suffering from PTSD, removing barriers to public sector workers and first-responder volunteers diagnosed with PTSD -
Dr Woodruff - But that's not the issue. None of that is specific support for paramedics to debrief them from the circumstances they experience.
Mr SPEAKER - Order, Leader of the Greens.
Mr BARNETT - accessing workplace support. I remember that it was nation-leading and I am very pleased and proud of our Government's initiative to progress that in 2019, which is now well underway. Being proactive with early identification and mental ill health warning signs - which is part of your question - adopting preventative measures and providing support to emergency services will help workers continue to do their job and provide assistance when required.
In conclusion, I indicate that if I have more detail in terms of the answer, I would be more than happy to update the House accordingly.