Concerns raised about ambulance system

A PARAMEDIC has raised concerns the state's ambulance system after his 75-year-old father was told to make his own way to hospital.

John, who did not wish to use his surname, said the ambulance had been cancelled by the new RefCom system.

The referral system diverts patients with non life-threatening medical problems to local doctors or services. 

"But my father wasn't told to go and see a general practitioner," John said.

"He was told to make his own way to hospital.

"The ambulance service identified that he required to go to hospital but said he had to make his own way there."

John said his father's knee had ballooned to the size of a football after a fall last week.

"My family rang me asking what to do and I told them he needed to go to hospital and get it checked out because previously he's required surgery to fix the same problem," John said.

"Mum and dad are both elderly and mum said she didn't think she was capable of getting him into the car to get him to hospital.

"I said that was fine and that I'd ring and organise an ambulance.

"I told them it wasn't an emergency so it didn't need to be done straight away but that it needed to be done at some stage that day."

John said everything had initially been given the OK.

But his mum called him an hour later to say she'd received a phone call from the ambulance service to say no resources were available and they would have to make their own way to hospital.

"I rang back the duty manager in Ballarat and they agreed that it shouldn't have happened," he said.

"It had somehow been lost in the system, it had been put over to the new RefCom system and cancelled the ambulance.

"Once it was reviewed an ambulance was dispatched.

"Because I'm a paramedic I know the system and I called to get it reviewed but not everyone would know to do that."

John said his father had commented that the paramedics and hospital staff were "brilliant".

"But the system has obviously failed in this situation," he said.

"We're running a political campaign the ambulance system is in crisis and as a paramedic I suggest this is evidence the system is failing."

Ambulance Victoria's manager of communications and referral services Danny McGennisken said they were reviewing the case.

"Ambulance Victoria’s call referral service has operated successfully in Melbourne since 2003 and in Barwon South-West since late 2012," he said.

"It has now been expanded state wide to deal with triple zero calls where the patient’s condition indicates that an emergency ambulance may not be required and an alternative service, such as sending a nurse or doctor, is more suitable.

"We were called to a man who fell injuring his knee 24 hours earlier.

"The man was triaged by an experienced paramedic in our call referral centre and indicated he was happy to make his own way to a doctor.

"We are reviewing the case, and are happy to meet with the man to discuss our response."

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