HUNTER paramedics will meet in Singleton this morning to consider action over emergency dispatch procedures they fear may have already cost at least one life and are risking others.
Dozens are expected to attend Singleton ambulance station to vent their concerns about the procedures that they say favour crews already on duty at more distant stations over on-call officers close to the emergency scene.
The Health Services Union has called for an independent inquiry into how the NSW Ambulance Service organises crew dispatch, arguing delays are the result of cost-cutting.
The call follows three incidents in two weeks where the union says ambulances have been wrongly assigned.
Last week, a triple-0 call from the family of Vacy toddler Seth Ashcroft was assigned to Raymond Terrace paramedics.
An on-call ambulance from the closer station at Dungog eventually responded after 15 minutes sitting idle.
Union divisional secretary Gerard Hayes described this latest delay as ‘‘unacceptable, immoral and bordering on criminal’’.
In another recent case, an ambulance based at Beresfield was called to attend a heart-attack victim 52kilometres away at East Gresford despite an on-call team being less than 20minutes away.
The man could not be revived and died at the scene.
Mr Hayes said members were ‘‘disgusted’’ that patients were being endangered.
The service has rejected the criticisms. It said the closest available response was sent to Vacy, and it was reviewing the East Gresford incident.
Today’s meeting is expected to consider motions of no confidence in the service, as well as what the union described as ‘‘smokescreen’’ accusations that its campaign was about pay and conditions.
Mr Hayes said the meeting would not result in services being withdrawn and the community would not be affected.
A public rally is also planned for Morisset on Sunday.
The union said a boundary administrative change that put Morisset station into the Sydney metropolitan area was depriving south-west Lake Macquarie of services or leaving a single ambulance officer to respond to any emergency.
Earlier this month, Minister for Health Jillian Skinner told State Parliament that an independent consultant had been commissioned to assess ‘‘ways the ambulance service can ensure the most timely access to appropriate health care for patients’’.
Lake Macquarie MP Greg Piper had told Parliament that ‘‘current arrangements are inequitable and the people of Morisset are depending on the Minister for action on the matter’’.