Paramedics call for overhaul of call centre

PARAMEDICS have rallied for an overhaul of the dispatch system that’s creating longer waiting times for patients.

The centralised call centre has come under criticism from Bendigo paramedics for sending ambulances to each job without prioritising call-outs by urgency.

Eaglehawk station paramedic Richard Marchingo said ambulances were being called out to unecessary jobs too often.

He said there were regularly two out of four night shift crews transporting patients from jobs as far away as Heathcote or Echuca.

“The trouble is it’s tying us up,” he said.

“It happens on a daily basis that we get dispatched to a job while there’s another more critical call-out.”

At talks held across the state yesterday hundreds of paramedics echoed Mr Marchingo’s concerns on the flawed communication system.

Ambulance union secretary Steve McGhie said the issues with the system were being felt by paramedics, as well as staff in the call centre.

He said it was clear that the current dispatch procedure was not working and had contributed to a longer response time for Code 1 emergencies.

“The people taking 000 calls and sending out ambulances are desperately trying to juggle resources that are stretched to breaking point,” he said.

“They often have to ring patients back to tell them they’re not even going to see an ambulance.”

Mr McGhie said the issue of poor response times and delays were compounded in central Victoria because of longer distances between ambulance stations.

“It’s more noticeable in regional areas because you don’t have as many ambulances,” he said. “It means the next closest available ambulance has to come from further away.” 

The Ambulance Employees Australia union said they were hoping the state government could “face up to the fact that our ambulance service is in crisis” and address the concerns.

Mr McGhie said he was not confident that next week’s state government budget would include any measures to improve ambulance waiting times. 

Negotiations over pay are continuing between paramedics and Ambulance Victoria.

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