The process to see paramedics as registered health professionals moves along  – see this post from ‘The Paramedic Observer’ https://www.facebook.com/ParamedProf/posts/1308854855824931.

The Summary of the Draft Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Amendment Law 2017 attached to that post says:

  1. Approved qualifications for paramedicine will be decided by the National Board in accordance with the usual arrangements for accreditation functions in the National Law

  2. However, in addition to the approved qualifications, and as agreed by the Ministerial Council on 7 October 2016, the Bill recognises that a person who holds a Diploma of Paramedical Science, Diploma of Paramedical Science (Ambulance), Advanced Diploma of Paramedical Science (Ambulance), Diploma in Paramedical Science (Pre-Hospital Care) or Advanced Diploma Paramedical Sciences (Pre-Hospital Care) issued by the Ambulance Service of NSW will be qualified for general registration in paramedicine under the National Law.

A correspondent has written and asked:

I note that the various incarnations of the Diploma of paramedical science will be accepted for registration but only if awarded by ambulance NSW.

My questions…

  1. Is it ok to discriminate against identical qualifications issued by another RTO, that was delivered to a standard defined by a government agency?…

The first proposition isn’t necessarily true.  The Bill, should it become law, will provide that the Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas issued by NSW Ambulance will be acceptable for paramedic registration but it does not mean that Diplomas offered by other RTOs will not be accepted.  Whether they are, or are not, will be a matter for the Paramedicine Board. Having said that it is however unlikely that other Diploma’s will be accepted as they are not currently identified by the Council of Ambulance Authorities as qualifications for employment as a paramedic – see http://www.caa.net.au/paramedic-education/accredited-courses.

Assuming then that the NSW Ambulance Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas will be the only accepted diplomas for accreditation, is it OK to discriminate against other RTO issued Diplomas?  ‘OK’ begs the question of whether we mean morally, intellectually or legally?  The answer is that it is OK on a legal basis.  Discrimination is a matter of making choices, it is only unlawful if the discrimination is made on prohibited grounds, eg gender, marital status, race etc.  That is not the case here.

One could make arguments regarding the notion of ‘competitive neutrality’ in government services and that what this is doing is anti-competitive by denying other RTOs the option to offer paramedic diplomas that lead to registration.   But politics is the ‘art of the possible’ and if this concession was required to get NSW on board then the Parliament can make those laws.

Further the anti-competition provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) only applies to a State to the extent that the state is carrying on a business (s 2B).  I don’t see that NSW Ambulance is a ‘business’, though the point could be argued (see United Firefighters Union of Australia (‘UFU’) V Country Fire Authority (‘CFA’) [2014] FCA 17 (31 January 2014) (February 12, 2014).  I can’t resolve the intricate details of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) but I’ll boldly suggest that I don’t think that it will prove a barrier to this provision.

Further, I imagine that there will be a significant difference to a diploma offered by an ambulance service and any other RTO.  An ambulance service can put their students on the road from day one.  It will still be the case that NSW Ambulance will have a virtual monopoly on emergency ambulance services so graduates from NSW Ambulance will have opportunities for significantly more clinical exposure than students of any other RTO.  If that’s correct the distinction isn’t merely protecting the NSW Ambulance diploma from competition but reflects and actual difference in qualification.

And, as noted, another RTO will be able to apply to the Paramedicine Board to have its qualifications recognised and if it can show equivalency that may be accepted.

  1. How does this help the cause of finding alternative career paths for qualified people, outside the state ambulance services?

Qualified people will be registered as paramedics and will be able to move across the industry.  What changes is what ‘qualified people’ means.  A person with a diploma, rather than a degree, will not be ‘qualified’.

Having said that I do not that there are ‘grandfathering’ provisions.  To return to the Paramedic Observer’s page and a powerpoint presentation that is attached. It there says

  • During the first three years of the scheme provisions allow paramedics who are already practising but do not hold a qualification approved by the Board for general registration under s53 to be granted general registration,

Persons currently working as a paramedic will be registered and they too will be able to move across the industry.  Future students who want to be paramedics will have to have regard to the approved qualifications.