Changes to Sydney's ambulance network have left suburbs surrounding the city's busy airport vulnerable by draining paramedics out of the area to respond to emergencies in the west, the Health Services Union has warned.
A reconfiguration of the Sydney's ambulance dispatch boards - which direct ambulances to triple-0 call-outs - has shifted control of suburbs including Mascot, Eastlakes and Botany from the Sydney East dispatch board to Sydney South dispatchers.
Paramedics with the HSU say ambulances that would have previously responded to medical emergencies around the airport are being sent to jobs in the city's south-west, leaving Mascot and the surrounding suburbs exposed.
NSW Ambulance said the new arrangement had not changed the fact that the closest ambulance would always respond to a triple-0 call, and the only difference for paramedics on the road would be a switch to a different radio channel.
But the HSU said the dispatch reshuffle was unworkable and at worst dangerous and a risk to patients, who could wait longer for ambulances to reach them if they have been called to jobs out of the area.
Union delegates said the change had caused chaos for paramedics who need to cover an area that not only takes in residents and workers in the high-density suburbs, but thousands of travellers that pass through the busy international airport every day.
NSW HSU secretary Gerard Hayes said the dispatch system was "beginning to resemble a game of musical chairs".
"Right now, the airport is exposed, but down the track it could be any community," Mr Hayes, a former paramedic said.
NSW Ambulance acting executive director of business innovation and planning Clare Beech said claims that the dispatch reconfiguration put the public at risk were "reckless".
"Effectively all that has changed is those paramedics are operating on a different radio channel," Ms Beech said.
"What happens on the ground remains the same. The community can be assured that under the reconfiguration the closest paramedic to a medical emergency will be dispatched," she said.
Ms Beech said Mascot was moved to align the dispatch boards with Sydney's new "hub and spokes" Paramedic Response Network. Under the new network, Mascot will be attached to the Kogarah superstation, which is managed by the south dispatch board.
"This is an attempt to make it as streamlined as possible," she said, adding that NSW Ambulance was attempting to use its funding and resources as effectively as possible.
Ms Beech said she had no reliable evidence to suggest the change had any negative or adverse outcomes, but would continue to consult control centre officers and the unions over any concerns.
The HSU is pushing the state government to fund an additional dispatch board to cope with Sydney's sprawling suburbs and huge patient load.
There are currently seven 24/7 dispatch boards across the city's sprawling suburbs.
"Sydneysiders need to know that they won't be left without adequate cover because the ambulance control centre is overstretched," Mr Hayes said. "We need funding now for an eighth ambulance dispatch board for greater Sydney."
The story Ambulance rejig leaves Sydney suburbs exposed, union warns first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.