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Public at risk from unqualified paramedics

Public at risk from unqualified paramedics

New Zealand media recently reported on an individual claiming to be a paramedic but who is not a qualified paramedic: “Former stripper starts up ambulance service”.

Paramedics Australasia – the professional body representing paramedics in New Zealand and Australia – is calling for the title of “paramedic” to be protected in New Zealand law and used only by those who have attained a nationally recognised standard of training.

“Paramedics are highly respected within the community. Individuals must not be allowed to misrepresent the title of “paramedic”. When they do, they put the safety of the public at risk and bring the profession into disrepute” says Sean Thompson, Chair of Paramedics Australasia (NZ).

“Currently anyone can legally call themselves a paramedic and we believe the case reported in the media is not an isolated one. Our fear is that the public will be placed at risk by unqualified individuals erroneously claiming to be paramedics.”

Mr. Thompson says that the title of “paramedic” needs to be protected in law. “Only a registered nurse can use the title of “nurse”. The public can be assured that a nurse maintains nationally-recognised clinical standards. If they do not, they cannot call themselves a nurse. We believe that the same should be true of paramedics.”

“Currently paramedicine is not a registered health profession, despite meeting the requirements of professional registration under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003. Under Section 7 of the Act it would become illegal to call yourself a paramedic if you are not registered and appropriately trained.”

St John and Wellington Free Ambulance are both self-regulating ambulance services. Paramedics Australasia NZ believes that only national regulation under the HPCA Act will ensure transparency and a uniform national standards for the two major providers, as well as for non-emergency private ambulance providers.

Paramedics now employed by St John and Wellington Free Ambulance must have a Bachelor’s degree or postgraduate paramedic qualification from Whitireia Polytechnic in Wellington, the Auckland University of Technology (AUT), or hold an equivalent overseas qualification.

“Those in need of emergency medical care need to be assured that the paramedic caring for them has attained a nationally recognised standard of training. A patient should not need to question whether the paramedic is a qualified paramedic.” Says Mr. Thompson.

It is time for paramedics to be nationally registered, for the profession to be nationally regulated, and for the title of "paramedic" to be protected in law.


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