The NSW Minister of Health has introduced into the Parliament the Health Services Amendment (Paramedics) Bill 2015. The Bill, if passed will make it illegal for anyone who is not a paramedic to ‘hold himself or herself out to be a paramedic’.
The maximum penalty will be 100 penalty units or $11 000. (A penalty unit is $110 (Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act 1999 (NSW) s 17). Penalty units are used to allow the government to adjust fines by amending the value of a unit rather than having to go through and amend every Act that has a financial penalty).
So who is a paramedic? Three classes of people will be able to call themselves a paramedic, they wil be:
1) a person holding a qualification, or who has received training, or who has relevant experience, as set out in the regulations (that are yet to be written);
2) a person ‘authorised under the legislation of another Australian jurisdiction’ to call themselves a ‘paramedic’; or
3) an employee of the Ambulance Service of NSW, or other person, authorised by the Health Secretary to use that title.
The interesting category is the second category. Tasmania and South Australia have taken steps to protect the title of ‘paramedic’ – see ‘Protecting the title of Paramedic (South Australia)’, October 2, 2014 and ‘Ambulance Service Amendment Act 2013 (Tas)’ January 24, 2014) so there are people who are ‘authorised under the legislation [of South Australia and Tasmania] … to hold himself or herself out to be a paramedic’ but what of the other states. In those states anyone can call themselves a paramedic but that authority is not granted by legislation. This may cause difficulties for paramedics who may be required to cross the border whether it’s Victorian or Queensland paramedics working cross border, or those from WA or the NT who might come to assist during a NSW disaster. This will not be an issue if those paramedics have a prescribed qualification, experience or training but if they don’t then they can’t use the title ‘paramedic’ in NSW. In those circumstances the Health Secretary may have to give a special authority to allow those paramedics to keep the title when working in NSW.