South Australia's volunteer firefighters are already attending a growing number of medical emergencies and are not trained to deal with the trauma, according to the head of the Country Fire Service CFS CFS chief officer Mark Johns, who raised concerns about the state government's probe into whether firefighters should attend more medical call-outs, as the SA Ambulance Service SAAS continues to be under increasing pressure.
Premier Peter Malinauskas has launched a taskforce to look into the concept after a 47-year-old father-of-two died in Plympton while waiting 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.
Ms Johns is not on the panel, however, Metropolitan Fire Service MFS chief Michael Morgan and South Australia Ambulance Service SAAS boss Robert Elliott will be part of the taskforce, along with Health Minister Chris Picton and union representatives.
"I lead a government that is open to ideas about what we can do to relieve pressure in any way that we can," Malinauskas said.
One such measure that is being proposed is drawing on the resources of the MFS to respond in ways that are safe - all options are on the table. He said the taskforce had been set up in haste but other measures the government wanted to introduce - such as employing more paramedics - would take time.
Mr Johns said his firefighters had already done that, attending more than 1,000 medical incidents in the past year and 14 this week.
These incidents often happen in small communities, where volunteers are turning up to an incident where they know the casualty. He said that the volunteers responding to medical situations were outside the scope of their normal duties, without pay and without the same support as other medical professionals. These jobs fall outside the scope of most people's expectations when they join the service.
The number of SAAS-assist jobs that our volunteers are expected to attend has grown significantly.
This is something that has happened without a formal agreement or additional support for our volunteers doing an already tough job. Mr Jones said volunteers were trained in first aid but there was a big difference between CPR and addressing the underlying clinical health issues of a patient.
An SAAS spokeswoman said the service already worked closely with fire services and police to support South Australians during a medical emergency.
She said that she hopes to grow the program over time and that we are excited to work with the SA Metropolitan Fire Service on a co-response model for the community here in South Australia.
Lifesaving initiatives that support early CPR and early defibrillation are possible.