Have virus symptoms? 'Only call triple zero if you can't breathe'

COVID-19 has been a double-edged sword for paramedics who are continuing to respond to calls for assistance while striving to protect their own health, the paramedics union says.

While no NSW paramedics have yet been diagnosed with work-acquired coronavirus, Australian Paramedics Association NSW president Chris Kastelan said the frontline health workers were experiencing increased psychological strain as a result of the pandemic.

"Paramedics work in a very dynamic environment with mental health patients, substance abuse patients and a whole range of medical patients. They are going about the tasks that they normally would but also going the extra mile to say safe," he said.

Chris Kastelan

Chris Kastelan

Many were opting to self-isolate from their families at the end of their shifts as an added precaution.

"They are on both ends of this - they are treating the unwell and when they go home they have to wash their work clothes separately and not spend time with their children," Mr Kastelan, a paramedic on the NSW Central Coast, said.

But while the risk of coronavirus infection was ever present, the number of call-outs to less serious conditions had declined noticeably in recent weeks.

The trend corresponds with an increase in the number of patients opting to seek medical attention via telehealth services rather than presenting to emergency departments.

"To be honest, that's a pleasant outcome; these people aren't in the emergency departments taking up the time of nursing staff and doctors. They are being appropriately cared for at the local medical centre," Mr Kastelan said.

Paramedics are advising patients who are likely to have coronavirus to self-isolate rather than call an ambulance to transport them to hospital to be tested.

"There was a case where someone who returned from overseas last week had become unwell. Rather than take them to hospital to confirm what we all suspected, we referred them to a COVID clinic in the health district which had specialty staff to talk to them." Mr Kastelan said.

"Only call triple zero if you can't breathe."

A NSW Ambulance spokeswoman also urged people to check their symptoms via services such as the Healthdirect COVID-19 hotline or by visiting a health clinic or GP before calling triple zero.

She said NSW Ambulance was providing a continual supply of personal protective equipment to paramedics who were called to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

"At this stage, no crews have been identified as contracting COVID-19 through workplace contact," she said.

"Along with our fleet, facilities such as control centres, education and stations are undergoing enhanced infection control procedures."

She said NSW Ambulance was working with the rest of NSW Health to support frontline staff and their families.

This story Have virus symptoms? 'Only call triple zero if you can't breathe' first appeared on The Canberra Times.