Victorian ambulance paging failures ‘isolated’

VICTORIA’S emergency services are standing by commuications company ESTA after a paramedic labelled the system unreliable.

The State Emergency Service, Country Fire Authority and Ambulance Victoria have said delays in the paging system were isolated and overall they were satisfied with the company’s service.

But earlier this week the Bendigo paramedic said a paging system failure delayed ambulance response times to a crash in Pall Mall last Friday night.

The paramedic said the failure meant ambulance crews took 15 minutes to travel three kilometres to treat the victims and that regional crews had lost faith in the system.

Ambulance Victoria Loddon Mallee regional manager Kevin Masci and SES media and community information manager Lachlan Quick said delays in the emergency paging system were few and far between.

“There have been no issues in particular around life-threatening or priority incidents,” Mr Quick said.

“We have had 39,000 jobs over the 2010-11 financial year, which is somewhat of a record for us.

“This is one of the busiest years we have had, and we are pretty happy with how ESTA has managed the messaging system during this time.”

The CFA similarly backed the paging system, saying ESTA had a “statutory responsibility” to take triple-0 calls and respond quickly.

“CFA supports ESTA in the great work it does to provide these critical services to the Victorian community,” a CFA spokesman said.

ESTA general manager Graham Thiessen said Friday night’s delay – where ambulance crews were unaware they had been called to the accident until after receiving a personal mobile call from an ESTA staff member – was being investigated.

Mr Thiessen said the initial pager message sent to the crews was received while the ambulance was en route.

“There was a delay in delivery of the pager message in this case,” he said.

“It is standard practice for ESTA, where there is no response from the ambulance crew after they have been sent a pager message, to contact them via other means.

“In this case they were contacted via telephone.”

ESTA took over as statewide telecommunications authority following the amalgamation of five regional operation centres last year.

Communications and events co-ordinator Tracey Khan invited emergency service crews to visit ESTA in Ballarat to inspect the communications base.