CFS raises concern around increased demand on volunteers to support SAAS
The Chief Officer of the SA Country Fire Service (CFS) has expressed his concern over the increasing demand placed upon CFS volunteers who provide assistance to the SA Ambulance Service (SAAS) in responding to medical incidents.
CFS volunteers have attended approximately 1,000 medical incidents in the past year, including 14 this week. They attend these with no specialist medical training and no additional mental health support. Additionally, these incidents often happen in small communities where the volunteers are turning up to an incident where they know the casualty.
Chief Officer Mark Jones said CFS volunteers who are responding to these incidents are doing so outside of the scope of their standard duties, in their own time without pay, and without the same support as paramedics.
"The CFS is not funded in any way for these non-statutory roles and, in the interests of patient safety and the mental well-being of CFS responders, a higher level of training and support would seem to be vital as a starter." Mr Jones said.
"Our volunteers are routinely called upon to attend traumatic events beyond the scope of their firefighting duties and these jobs fall outside of most people's expectations when they join the service."
"I have seen the number of SAAS assist jobs that our volunteers are expected to attend grow significantly. This is something that has occurred without any formal agreement or additional support for our volunteers doing an already tough job."
Many CFS volunteers have the expertise of dealing with distressing scenes and working closely with paramedics due to their training in Road Crash Rescue, where they will often need to remove a casualty from a crash in a safe and timely manner.
However, Mr Jones said while these volunteers are trained in first aid, and have many specialist skills, there is a large difference between providing CPR and addressing someone's underlying clinical health issues.
"There is already a great reliance on CFS volunteers to provide SAAS with assistance, particularly in regional SA, with jobs like difficult extrications, patient lifts, resuscitation and other medical emergencies."
"Our firefighters are keen to play any role which helps them to support their neighbours. However, it is in these small communities where the trauma of these sorts of jobs hits hardest - our volunteers are regularly turning up to an incident where they personally know the casualty and are having to deal with the mental trauma of this."
CFS volunteers, staff and their immediate family have access to Stress Prevention and Management (SPAM) services, which offers counselling and post-incident stress and trauma support.