Paramedics are leaving the NT at a higher rate than anywhere else, according to the Productivity Commission’s recent report, that found the NT led the nation with a 20.2 per cent attrition rate for the 2019-20 financial year.
But the head of St John said it was an unusual year and that the provider is focused on training and recruiting homegrown paramedics after many have left for offers interstate during the pandemic.
According to the report, 36 paramedics exited the NT during the year – compared to only 44 in Queensland. Across Australia, there were 431 paramedics who left their jobs or 2.7 per cent of the overall workforce.
Queensland has the lowest attrition rate with 1.1 per cent, with Tasmania next at 1.9 per cent. The ACT had the second highest rate at 4.3 per cent, followed by WA at 4.2 per cent.
The NT’s attrition rate is five times higher than WA.
The report stressed that COVID-19 has had an effect on the rates.
St John NT chief executive Judith Barker said that Territory paramedics are leaving their posts to seek COVID-19 related critical service opportunities interstate, but did not elaborate if interstate service providers offered more incentives or better salary packages for NT paramedics to transfer.
Charles Darwin University and St John NT signed a partnership in September 2020 to deliver a Bachelor-level degree in paramedic science which will cater to the unique conditions of the NT. The course will be available from Semester 1 2021.
“[The] NT was one of the country’s most interesting and diverse locations, giving paramedics the opportunity to develop skills and experience with complex medical cases, high speed trauma, and delivery of care in extreme and isolated conditions,” Ms Barker said in a statement.
“From the Red Centre to the tropical north, paramedics in the Territory are faced with a complex workload.
“Even in the Territory’s capital city, Darwin, our crews are constantly expanding their clinical experience beyond what is often considered standard care.”
Ms Barker said that the proposed paramedic program would contribute to significant recruitment and retention.
“This will increase our capacity to save lives and build community resilience to improve the safety and healthcare for all Territorians,” she said.
The NT has by far the fewest paramedics of any Australian jurisdiction, with 179 reported full time equivalent workers compared to the ACT who recorded 248 and Queensland with 4,000.
United Workers Union NT suggested the new paramedic degrees from CDU would not help with retention rates and used the new figures to renew calls on the NT Government to take over ambulance services.
The federal paramedic data comes as recently released attrition figures from the NT Police Association showed 10 police officers were retiring or resigning every month.