A paramedic with more than four decades of experience claims a secondary triage system might save resources, but it will cost lives, despite assurances from Ambulance Tasmania that the system will provide an added level of patient safety.
Last week Health Minister Sarah Courtney announced the government would establish a secondary triage service for Ambulance Tasmania, as an alternative pathway for dealing with triple zero calls.
It comes after a 2017 review of clinical and operational services analysing 210,000 ambulance responses found that over 40 per cent of all transported patients were categorised as non-acute.
The report recommended moving to a secondary triage service where a triple zero call centre could direct non-acute patients to other providers, such as those offering primary care.
However, the Health and Community Services Union argue the service is flawed.
HACSU delegate and intensive care flight paramedic Peter James said with more complex cases, determining what constituted an emergency had become increasingly challenging.
"One of the common things at this time of year is we pick up the elderly who are just hanging in there," he said.
"They might be fairly independent, but if they fall and are on the floor in this kind of weather, they become hypothermic and they die. I have seen it happen.
"Just a fall on the floor wouldn't be classed as an emergency, but to them it is. That's the question now - what's the perception around an emergency."
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An Ambulance Tasmania spokesperson said secondary triaging of calls was routinely done by ambulance services nationally and internationally, and would be undertaken by skilled paramedics and nurses.
"Life threatening and medical emergency calls to triple zero are all screened though the primary triage system with the immediate dispatch of the closest ambulance," the spokesperson said.
"These calls are not directed to secondary triage."
But Mr James said it would be easy for complex cases to fall through the cracks.
"Until now, an emergency call had to be answered, then the crew that arrived had to assess them," he said.
"They might say, 'look you don't need to go to hospital, you can wait until tomorrow, see your GP'.
"But if someone says you don't need an ambulance, someone could wake up dead the next morning."
Ambulance Tasmania said secondary triage advanced screening tools would identify cases that may need to be upgraded to an emergency status.
"This provides an added level of patient safety and ensures everyone receives the care they need," the spokesperson said.
"Paramedics routinely report they are responding to patients who do not need ambulance transport, which diverts valuable resources away from potential lifesaving calls."