Paramedics: lives at risk

TOWNS outside Bendigo are left without paramedics for periods every day to make up for staff shortages in Bendigo, putting lives at risk, two paramedics say.The paramedics, “Jack” and “Mary”, said ambulances were pulled from as far away as Maryborough to cover rostering problems in Bendigo, especially overnight.Ambulance Victoiria management will meet with staff today to discuss roster changes they hope will allow the service to run more efficiently.Ambulance Victoria and the Victorian coroner are investigating the death 10 days ago of a Campbells Creek woman, 57, who died alone from a suspected acute pulmonary oedema waiting for an ambulance, while Castlemaine’s paramedics went to a non-urgent call in Bendigo.Jack said using out-of-town crews to cover jobs in Bendigo happened every day.“What happens is that crews from Castlemaine, Maryborough, Inglewood or Heathcote get called in to cover jobs in Bendigo when they have no crews.“I reckon it’s a daily occurrence, particularly at night.“Let’s say Castlemaine is in Bendigo on a job. That means another crew might have to come from Maryborough, or Kyneton or even further south on the Calder,” he said.“That means there are time delays and that other town doesn’t have an ambulance”.Jack said it was fair that towns were without an ambulance while taking a local patient to Bendigo but it should not happen just to cover staff shortages.Mary said the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority control room in Ballarat, which took over Bendigo’s communications on May 3, was part of the problem.“I don’t have a problem with what they do most of the time, but what happens now is that when a job comes in they are sending the nearest car, no matter what, and sometimes that might be Castlemaine or another crew,” she said.“In the old days, if all the crews were busy, they’d try and get someone to clear if it was a code three or two job. It was a last resort to bring someone from out of town.”Ambulance Victoria Loddon Mallee regional manager Kevin Masci said Castlemaine now ran a 24-hour roster and Woodend and Maryborough would go to 24-hour operation by July 11 with an additional peak-period unit during the day and evenings.“Consultation with the workforce is now commencing on reviewing the Bendigo and Kangaroo Flat resources, with the aim to have more efficient coverage once new branches commence in Bendigo. I have a meeting with paramedics in Bendigo this week,” Mr Masci said.Mr Masci said Ambulance Victoria required ESTA to send the first available unit in emergencies but exceptions applied for lower-priority cases to allow paramedics meal or rest breaks or to return to their branches.