The Ambulance Service Amendment Act 2013 has now passed through the Tasmanian Parliament (it received Royal Assent on 19 December 2013) though it has not yet commenced operation. The Act will become effective law on 1 July 2014 unless proclaimed to commence on an earlier date (s 2). The Bill was the subject of an earlier blog post (see ‘New law for ambulance services in Tasmania‘ and ‘New law for ambulance services in Tasmania – Update). Now that the Bill has become an Act it is worth, briefly, revisiting the provisions in their final form.
The most significant provision is the attempt to protect the title paramedic. As I have noted elsewhere, the term ‘paramedic’ is undefined and anyone can call themselves a paramedic. One of the advantages of national registration, should it happen, is the term ‘paramedic’ will be limited to people who qualify for registration as a paramedic. In the absence of registration, Tasmania has moved to restrict the use of the title. Once this Act commences, the term ‘paramedic’ will be limited to:
1. Employees of Ambulance Tasmania (the new name for what is now the Tasmanian Ambulance Service) who hold prescribed paramedic qualifications or qualifications that the Commissioner thinks equate to those prescribed qualifications and who is employed in a position determined by the Commissioner to be a paramedic position. Accordingly a person who is a employed as a mechanic by Ambulance Tasmania would not be able to call themselves ‘a paramedic’ even if they had also completed a prescribed paramedic qualification.
2. Employees of approved inter-state ambulance services who hold the necessary qualifications, is approved by the Commissioner as qualified to provide care in Tasmania, and is providing care in accordance with approved protocols. In effect this means paramedics with interstate services who are assisting, as part of interstate cooperation to provide ambulance services in Tasmania so if Ambulance Victoria sends paramedics to assist Ambulance Tasmania during a disaster (see Ambulance Service Amendment Act 2013 (Tas) s 31 inserting a new s 38A into the Ambulance Service Act 1982 (Tas)).
3. Other people who have been listed in the regulations; so that may be anyone who holds a particular qualification and is employed by an authorised private provider in Tasmania. (Ambulance Service Amendment Act 2013 (Tas) s 4 inserting a new s 3AB into the Ambulance Service Act 1982 (Tas)).
It will be an offence for anyone to drive or ‘have charge of’ a vehicle with the word ‘ambulance’ or ‘paramedic’ on it unless it is, respectively, an ambulance or being staffed by a paramedic (so what happens when a vehicle marked ‘paramedic’ is being driven by a mechanic?) (Ambulance Service Amendment Act 2013 (Tas) s 31 inserting a new s 39 into the Ambulance Service Act 1982 (Tas)).
Importantly an ambulance is a vehicle operated by Ambulance Tasmania or approved by the Commissioner. A private provider, including St John Ambulance Australia, cannot put the word ‘ambulance’ on their vehicles without the Commissioner’s approval. This is the case even though St John Ambulance is allowed to provide ambulance services (Ambulance Service Act 1982 (Tas) s 37). This is because the definition of ‘ambulance’ will not say a vehicle operated by a organisation authorised to provide ambulance services, rather it will say that an ambulance is:
(ii) operated by, or on behalf of, the Ambulance Service to provide ambulance services other than non-emergency patient transport services; or
(b) which is approved by the Commissioner to be so operated
and the term ‘ambulance service’ will mean the Ambulance Tasmania! (Ambulance Service Amendment Act 2013 (Tas) s 4 ).
It will be an offence for someone to represent that they are a paramedic, or that they run a business that employs paramedics, unless approved by the Commissioner (Ambulance Service Amendment Act 2013 (Tas) s 31 inserting new ss 39 and 39A into the Ambulance Service Act 1982 (Tas)). As noted a paramedic will be a person who has the prescribed qualifications and is employed by Ambulance Tasmania. In short, private ambulance providers such as Ambulance Private (http://www.ambulanceprivate.com.au/) will not be able to use the word ‘ambulance’ on their vehicles or describe their staff as paramedics without the approval of the Commissioner.
Under fire and emergency services legislation, various officers of the fire and emergency services have statutory authority to enter land or do other things that may otherwise constitute a legal wrong (a tort or a crime). Most ambulance service Acts do not have similar provision. This Act will give specific statutory power to Tasmanian ambulance officers to use reasonable force, and whatever assistance may be necessary, to ‘enter any land, premises or vehicle if the officer has reasonable grounds for believing that a person in or on the land, premises or vehicle requires urgent ambulance services’ (Ambulance Service Amendment Act 2013 (Tas) s 13 inserting a new s 14A into the Ambulance Service Act 1982 (Tas)).
Where there is more than one statutory agency in attendance, eg police, Tasmania Fire Service or the State Emergency Service, and an ambulance officer is providing care to a person, then the senior ambulance officer is responsible for the care of the patient and may make recommendations to the other services as to their priorities in order to protect the welfare of the person requiring assistance. To put that in context, at a rescue the senior ambulance officer may ask the rescue service to prioritise releasing on person ahead of another because of the person’s injuries.
The Act introduces a licensing scheme to allow private providers to supply non-emergency patient transport (Ambulance Service Amendment Act 2013 (Tas) s 25 inserting a new Part IIIA into the Ambulance Service Act 1982 (Tas)). Similar schemes already operate in Victoria (Non Emergency Patient Transport Act 2003 (Vic)) and South Australia (Health Care Act 2008 (SA) s 58).
The CEO of Ambulance Tasmania will be ‘the Commissioner’ and honorary ambulance officers will now be volunteer ambulance officers.