St John’s Ambulance WA’s decision to change its workforce structure to fill a shortfall in paramedics a sign of a whole system at capacity, according to Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam.

“To have crews filled with lesser qualified ambulance officers is obviously less than ideal but it is a result of a health system that has been at capacity for a number of years before we entered the pandemic,” Ms Mettam said.

“While increased calls to 000 and time constraints associated with changing PPE will account for some of the current pressure, it is only one small part of the overall situation.

“Ambulance ramping has been an escalating problem since the McGowan Government was elected because the hospitals simply don’t have capacity to accept the patients.

“We have gone from 641 hours in March 2017 to 5639 hours in March 2022.

“Last August was the worst month on record, with ambulances parked for more than 6500 hours outside hospitals, despite there being no community spread of COVID.

“This is clearly not just about COVID. The gridlock in our emergency departments is a result of the McGowan Government consistently trying to cut corners on health and the pressure has been building to the point where it is now having a dire flow-on effect on other services such as St John’s.”

Last month, ambulances were ramped for 5639 hours and ambulance response times were the worst on record with only 70 per cent of emergency call outs responded to within 15 minutes.

“These figures are shocking but should not come as a surprise – if an ambulance is parked outside a hospital because there are no beds inside or assess patients in our Emergency Departments, it can not respond to other calls. That lies squarely at the feet of the McGowan Government.

“Despite a record surplus and two years to prepare our hospital system for this exact situation, it’s astounding that we are still in this situation.”