New law sparks fear of fewer paramedics

New law sparks fear of fewer paramedics

By Katharine Child and Jan Bornman, 30 January 2017,

Move towards university training could lead to skills shortage

Dying South Africans may soon be in trouble, with a move to ensure paramedic training is only done at universities potentially leading to fewer skilled paramedics being trained.

It ends the use of six-week (basic life support paramedic training), six-month (intermediate life support paramedic training) and nine-month (advanced life support paramedic training) courses and on-thejob experience to train paramedics.

Now those wanting to train as a basic life-support paramedic will have to do a two-year course, with those wanting to become advanced life-support paramedics needing a four-year degree.

This makes it especially difficult for those who cannot afford to study full-time at universities to join the profession.

The changes in law were effected to bring training in line with the national qualifications framework, as well as to end short courses which are said to have become a cash-cow for many colleges pushing out thousands of graduates, with questionable skills, according to an insider.

Paramedic Max Cohen said the change was good as it would professionalise the industry.

A new regulation, which was widely expected by the emergency service industry and was driven by the Health Professionals Council of SA, was made official on Friday by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

But others said it would reduce the number of paramedics qualifying due to universities’ limited capacities.

Many of them said the new training was too theoretical and prevented experienced and already working personnel from furthering their studies, especially those wanting to become advanced life-support paramedics.

SA Private Ambulance Emergency Services’ Association chief executive Oliver Wright said the decision to end vocational training essentially set South Africa up for a catastrophic failure in terms of staffing resources within the country’s emergency medical services.

He said there were already too few advanced life-support paramedics and only a few universities that could offer full-time paramedic training.

“With the short courses coming to an end, we have fewer graduates [entering] the emergency medical services profession,” Wright said.

He said the graduates produced annually through tertiary institutions would not be enough to grow the industry as required.

Wright said South Africa was behind international benchmarks in terms of paramedic numbers.

A paramedic, who did not want to be named, said the shift to university training in recent years had resulted in the quality of paramedic skills declining, with too few graduates entering the profession with sufficient practical experience.

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