PARAMEDICS say that blown-out response times in the Hunter are becoming routine practice and are the result of a "systemic problem" across the state, with NSW Ambulance failing to respond to even the highest-priority cases within appropriate clinical time frames.
The recent case of an elderly man who had to wait six hours with a broken hip for ambulance crews to take him to hospital has highlighted the issue of chronic under-staffing in the Hunter, with the state's paramedics union backing calls for more paramedics in the region.
NSW Ambulance has defended its response, saying the call was triaged at an appropriate level and paramedics were responding to higher priority cases.
But Ambulance Paramedics Association President Chris Kastelan said those claims contradict the reality that NSW Ambulance are consistently failing to reach even the highest priority jobs in an appropriate time frame.
"For NSW Ambulance to claim that this outcome was a result of high demand, and more pressing priorities elsewhere on the day, is misleading," Mr Kastelan said.
"Yes, these factors may be true, and yes, the patient in question may have been assessed correctly. "But the reality is emergency services in the Hunter are routinely running at or above capacity, particularly on Friday nights.
"NSW Ambulance is failing patients across the board-including those assessed as the most urgent cases. "Our state has the second-slowest ambulance response times nationwide for Code 1 incidents.
"We have the lowest survival rates for the most survivable category of cardiac arrest. "These are shameful figures, and the public is right to be upset."
According to data from this year's Report on Government Services (RoGS) the adult survival rates for VF/VT cardiac arrests - the rhythm most correctable through early defibrillation - was 38.6 per cent in NSW, well behind Victoria at 55 per cent.
Hunter paramedic and Ambulance Paramedic Association NSW executive team member Brendan McIlveen said the number of crews across the Hunter had not increased in years and the minimum operating levels hadn't changed since 2010.
"It is up to NSW Ambulance to proactively change them as the population and job demand increases," Mr McIlveen said.
"They are saying they have done that by adding an extra 750 paramedics across the state, but those staff are only covering people who are already on long-term sick leave, workers comp or retiring staff."