Code one delays

DELAYS in getting an ambulance to two top-priority call outs in Paynesville and Lakes Entrance recently have again focused attention on Gippsland’s ambulance staffing issues.

An ambulance was called to Paynesville at 11.18pm on Friday April 5 for an 18-year-old male who had a petrol soaked towel thrown on him which was then lit.

A code one response, with the victim suffering more than 18 per cent burns, the nearest available ambulance was sent from Maffra.

An ambulance at Bairnsdale hospital could not be dispatched, its crew had already exceeded their shift time without a compulsory rest break, but it was sent at 11.48pm and the Maffra ambulance cancelled.

Around the same time a Lakes Entrance woman with a history of heart problems needed an ambulance at 11.25pm. Following intervention from the group manager an ambulance arrived at eight minutes past midnight.

Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Health Wade Noonan said these incidents demonstrated a disturbing trend towards ambulances not being able to respond within an acceptable time frame, or more disturbingly, not being able to respond at all.

“I’ve written a number of letters to the Health Minister, David Davis about these ambulance system failures in the Gippsland region but he has failed to even respond.”

“The Minister must explain why so many shifts continue to go unfilled. This is becoming a disaster for our paramedic workforce and unnecessarily placing Victorian lives at risk.”

Ambulance Victoria’s Gippsland Regional Manager Mick Stephenson said when someone called for help the service would like to be able to send an ambulance immediately.

“Sometimes this just isn’t possible and we understand that it can be concerning for those waiting.

“It’s disappointing when we take too long to reach someone who needs our care and we’d like to commend the actions of the bystanders who came to the assistance of the patient,” he said.

Commenting on the continuing industrial action by Ambulance Employees Australia Mr Stephenson said the union has not responded to an offer to use the services of an independent umpire through a voluntary conciliation process in the Fair Work Commission.

“Although our options for pay increases of up to six per cent have not been accepted to date, we will continue to identify new options in a genuine attempt to bring negotiations to a conclusion.”

“We are keen for paramedics who undertake shift work as part of their role caring for their patients and the community, receive the benefit of the greater pay increase.

“The trade-off for those increases is that the offer to paramedics not undertaking shift work is less. This approach is common … where shift work is involved, such as police and nursing,” he said.

“We are committed to providing choices to paramedics in order that they receive a satisfactory pay increase and finalise the negotiations. Due to all offers to date being rejected by the union, we have sought the assistance of the Fair Work Commission. We are hopeful that the union will consider voluntary conciliation instead of increasing industrial bans and we are seeking for the union to come to the table with us in the Fair Work Commission so all possible options are discussed.

“However, should the union reject this approach and institute bans that affect our ability to deliver services to the community, we will seek the assistance of the Fair Work Commission.”