Already decimated by COVID-19 and under growing pressure to replenish a worn out front line, Australian ambulance services are about to lose some of their best and brightest replacements.
Hundreds of desperately needed fresh troops are being targeted from afar.
With exhausted NSW officers resorting to industrial action and depleted crews in Victoria unable to meet emergency deadlines, British recruiters will arrive in Sydney and Melbourne to begin interviewing graduates from next week.
London Ambulance Service, one of the world’s busiest, began campaigning to attract Australian paramedics in 2014, keen to utilise their skill sets and training levels, which are similar to those required in the UK.
Aussies currently make up about a quarter of its 2000 on-road officers, but LAS is determined to bring more on board.
It has 500 recruits in its sights this year, with around half likely to be poached from overseas and mostly Australia.
As part of the deal, they’ll receive assistance with application, visa and relocation costs, and their registration fees will be waived. Once recruited, they’ll undergo short conversion courses.
Meanwhile, working NSW paramedics are being “pushed beyond the limits of fatigue”, says the Australian Paramedics Association’s Alan O’Riordan.
“If the government fails to meaningfully invest in a safer, fairer workplace, they’ll be staring down the barrel of a mass exodus of highly skilled and qualified workers.”
At least 12 Victorian patients have died since October after calls to the state’s triple zero service went unanswered or were not picked up quickly enough.
Premier Daniel Andrews concedes doing something about it demands serious investment and time.
“You can’t generate health professionals in a matter of weeks and months,” he says.
In Queensland, emergency call rates are at near-record highs as the Omicron wave continues, with more than 3000 health staff including about 200 paramedics off work in quarantine or isolation.
For graduates thinking of launching careers overseas rather than taking their chances locally, a job with LAS is like no other, says chief paramedic Dr John Martin.
“Not only is London one of the most exciting cities in the world to live in, it is one of the most challenging and varied environments you can work in as a clinician.”
Gold Coast graduate Caitlin Innis has already taken the plunge.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be working (here) as a paramedic … I keep pinching myself,” she said.
“London has so much to offer; each day feels like a new adventure.”
Ms Innis says working with the LAS has exposed her to an array of emergency scenarios she otherwise might not have encountered.
LAS crews attend more than 3000 priority jobs a day city-wide.
Despite serving nine million residents, workers and visitors, their average response time to serious emergencies is less than seven minutes.
In total, the service employs 8000 staff.
Australian applicants are being urged to apply by the end of April, with face-to-face interviews scheduled for the beginning of May.