Tasmania's frontline paramedics are true heroes and I am sure that every shift is now more stressful.
Ambulance calls to patients continue and emergency cases do not stop. There are accidents, injury and a raft of other medical emergencies, but also there are those patients that call with breathing problems. Breathing difficulty emergency calls are usually a very regular response for our paramedics, but today this has the potential to be a patient with COVID-19.
Stress and anxiety must be something that our paramedics keep to themselves. But how do they feel on the inside, hidden behind their masks, when attending to a potential COVID-19 patient? Every paramedic has to respond and treat their patients, but at the same time protect themselves, their colleagues and family as well. To achieve this, they must don an infectious disease kit including a mask, goggles, gown and gloves.
How must it feel to be dressed in something like they were about to enter Chernobyl? Their protective garb is impersonal and is hot, uncomfortable, restrictive and must look very scary to the patients. The protective barrier must also hide many things that are part of our paramedics' tool kit such as compassion and empathy, as facial expressions are now all concealed. Humour is also concealed as well as their smiles.
Going through all their minds must be the recent events that are happening in Italy, Spain, the US and the UK. A significant risk is evident and emergency workers including doctors, nurses and paramedics are dying or on ventilators. Their confidence and self-esteem must now be reset.
Can you imagine how uncomfortable it would feel sitting in a confined ambulance unit for more than 30 minutes with a patient suffering severe respiratory symptoms?
The media has given us all a crash course in epidemiology and communicable diseases controls. Paramedics are well educated and can make the right choices for their patients and themselves.
It was only a week ago in Tasmania when things appeared to be settling with COVID-19, but now things have escalated and most Tasmanians are making both mandatory and voluntary sacrifices. For paramedics, it's a high-risk job in which they are far more likely to acquire the disease than many others with a significant chance of succumbing to COVID-19. The reality is that paramedics saving lives has always come with risk - today more than ever. Every paramedic, doctor and nurse, all wear the scars of their work and these you will never see. But saving lives is a privilege, an honour and I take my hat off to every one of them.
- Helen Polley, Tasmanian Labor senator.