Ambulance Victoria has given universities with paramedic courses 12 weeks to sign a contract over funding agreements if their students are to continue taking part in the AV placement program.

The reported cost is about five times the profit some universities make from running the course — and meeting the financial request will allegedly make the course not viable at a leading Victorian university.

An anonymous student from Monash University says she has been told by university authorities that “if this is to occur they will have to discontinue the paramedic courses”.

“This cost between all students could run to over a million [dollars], something which Monash at least cannot afford,” she says.

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AV quality and education general manager Angelia Dixon says only “initial discussions” have started and “no start date has been set as we are continuing to consult with the universities around preferred timelines for implementation”.

But Victoria University course co-ordinator Peter Hartley says that, while the proposal will not affect the VU course, universities have received a deadline.

“Contract arrangements have been delivered to universities and the expectation is that we’ll have them signed well before the end of the year,” he says.

The placement is an essential part of the training required to become a paramedic but the Monash student says the supervising paramedics “often have no or little training and many agree to take students just for the extra pay”.

“The issue here is that we are being asked to pay for an already substandard service,” she says.

Both political parties have addressed paramedic shortages in their policies for the upcoming state election, with Premier John Brumby promising an additional 105 paramedics by mid-2011 and Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu pledging 340 more over the next four years.

But a failure to meet the New Year’s Day deadline means that students intending to graduate midway through 2011 will be ineligible — another blow to the state’s already struggling paramedic numbers.