Paramedicine Students at AUT will now complete placements at Healthline, the national telehealth service, following the cancellation of existing placements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 Alert Level system does not permit frontline ambulance clinical placements at Alert Level 3 or 4.
Students studying Paramedicine in their third – and final – year are now to complete 12 eight hour shifts at Healthline instead of placement with the ambulance service. Tony Ward, Head of AUT Paramedicine, told Craccum that “Paramedicine students in their final semester have an opportunity to undertake clinical placement in a structured programme and complete their studies in this COVID environment”.
However, some students in Paramedicine have expressed concern over the newly organised placement at Healthline. An online petition was launched on change.org, titled ‘Against Free Labour: No to Paramedic students working in telehealthcenters (sic)’. The petition has a target of 500 signatures and as of May 1st has received 376. This petition, created anonymously by a ‘Concerned Student’ expresses upset that students are being “forced to work for free” and that the placement may result in students feeling “under prepared to enter the workforce”.
AUTSPA, the AUT Student Paramedicine Association, did not respond to Craccum’s request for comment. Craccum has been unable to get in contact with the student who started the petition.
In response to students, AUT has stated that the choice to begin placement at Healthline is at their own discretion. “They can always defer the practical component of their study until ambulance clinical placements resume. We just don’t know when that will be” Ward said.
Ward further affirmed the decision by AUT Paramedicine, telling Craccum that students have the right to voice their opinions and that the department was open to talking to students. Ward stated that the faculty “has been working with the best intentions to provide students with an excellent alternative to ambulance clinical placement, I believe we have”
Andrew Slater, CEO of Healthline, supported statements from AUT Paramedicine, highlighting the continued growth of virtual health consultations and the existing success of Healthline’s clinical placement programme. Healthline is the third larger employer of paramedics in New Zealand, outside of the two main ambulance services.
The decision by AUT Paramedicine is similar to that of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Auckland, who informed students at the beginning of April that their clinical placements were to be replaced with placements at Healthline as a result of disruption due to COVID-19. These placements were postponed as a result of issues with the training software required for students to begin the placement. As of April 30th, Fourth year pharmacy students have yet to be informed when their time at Healthline is due to begin.
AUT Paramedicine Students will begin clinical placements at Healthline on Monday 4th May. The roster is already full.