Paramedic incident reaction slowing

BENDIGO paramedics say responses to critical incidents are increasingly delayed because of major problems with their dispatch system.

Paramedics have spoken out about systemic failures and under-resourcing of ambulance stations that have created longer turn-around times across the region.

In one instance last year a 70-year-old Maryborough man died of cardiac arrest, after waiting 40 minutes for an ambulance.

The closest ambulance at the time was responding to a job in Ballarat.

Bendigo paramedic Brett Adie said that type of scenario was becoming far too common.

Mr Adie said ambulances from outer regions like Heathcote, Castlemaine and even Echuca have been relied on to cover demand in Bendigo.

He said the issue had been made worse in the past year with Bendigo stripped of two day-shift crews. 

“We’re constantly relying on trucks from other areas,” he said. 

“It can leave those towns uncovered for hours at a time.” 

He said as more ambulances from Bendigo responded to minor jobs as far away as Heathcote and Castlemaine, resources were being diverted away from from vital incidents.

“If someone rings for an ambulance after twisting their ankle they may have an ambulance dispatched with the same priority as someone who is having a heart attack,” he said.

“The person having a heart attack will have to wait for a crew from somewhere else. This is not an exaggeration. Errors like this occur every day in and around Bendigo.”

In an ongoing industrial dispute local paramedics have called on Ambulance Victoria to address issues of under-staffing and lift pay and work conditions in line with other states.

Despite more stations being set up around Epsom, Eaglehawk and Strathdale, local paramedics said the decentralisation had only created further issues.

Eaglehawk station paramedic Richard Marchingo said the sub-stations were good in theory but flawed whenever there were multiple jobs in the one area.

“It happens all the time that if two jobs go off at Kangaroo Flat at once, the second one to arrive might be coming from Epsom,” he said. 

The union is expected to demand a pay rise of about 21 per cent over three to three and a half years for its 2500 members next month.

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