‘LIVES AT RISK’

Meet­ing called to ad­dress ambo staffing lev­els

Campaspe News - - FRONT PAGE - By KIM­BER­LEY PRICE

A PUB­LIC meet­ing will be held with Am­bu­lance Vic­to­ria to dis­cuss the staffing sit­u­a­tion at the Rochester Sta­tion.

In Au­gust, Am­bu­lance Vic­to­ria scrapped a trial ros­ter of two-of­fi­cer crews in Rochester, mean­ing the two re­main­ing full-time paramedics have been forced to work alone or with vol­un­teer Am­bu­lance Com­mu­nity Of­fi­cers (ACO).

Most re­cently, a fe­male Bendigo para­medic — who was at­tend­ing the Rochester Sta­tion — had to take leave af­ter al­legedly be­ing ver­bally abused while try­ing to sin­gle-hand­edly save an el­derly pa­tient’s life.

On Septem­ber 20 the para­medic was made aware there were no ACOs avail­able to re­spond that night, mean­ing she would have to go to cases on her own and wait for back-up from an­other branch. Back-up crews are based about 20 min­utes away.

Just af­ter mid­night the para­medic was dis­patched to a car­diac/res­pi­ra­tory ar­rest of a 75-year-old res­i­dent. The para­medic ar­rived and com­menced re­sus­ci­ta­tion, while wait­ing for the back-up crew.

While try­ing to re­sus­ci­tate the pa­tient, the para­medic was al­legedly ex­posed to ver­bal abuse by a fam­ily mem­ber for not do­ing enough.

The para­medic worked alone for 12 min­utes un­til an­other para­medic ar­rived to as­sist.

‘‘Po­lice at­tended and as­sisted the am­bu­lance of­fi­cer at ap­prox­i­mately 12:30-1am and spoke to peo­ple in­volved at the scene,’’ Rochester sergeant Dale Simm said.

The Bendigo para­medic took leave from work af­ter this case, in which the pa­tient died.

The Am­bu­lance Em­ploy­ees Aus­tralia-Vic­to­ria (Am­bu­lance Union) As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary Olga Bar­tasek has been made aware of the sit­u­a­tion and be­lieves it is an ap­palling work en­vi­ron­ment for paramedics to be ex­posed to.

‘‘There have been 18 cases where a sin­gle para­medic has re­sponded on their own over the past eight weeks,’’ Ms Bar­tasek said. ‘‘Do­ing the work of a para­medic can be stress­ful in it­self but add to that a para­medic in a gen­eral pur­pose am­bu­lance ve­hi­cle re­spond­ing on their own — stress is ex­po­nen­tially in­creased.

‘‘The work­ing con­di­tions at Rochester have al­ready bro­ken one para­medic due to re­spond­ing to cases on their own when an ACO is not avail­able to work.

‘‘The Rochester com­mu­nity are miss­ing out on bet­ter re­sponse times be­cause of sec­ondary de­lays to their triple zero calls.’’

For­mer mem­ber of the Am­bu­lance Aux­il­iary Chris­tine Wright said it is de­spi­ca­ble that there were 18 in­ci­dents at­tended by lone paramedics.

‘‘It’s too late for Am­bu­lance Vic­to­ria to give sup­port to paramedics in­volved in dis­tress­ing cases af­ter an in­ci­dent,’’ she said.

‘‘This fe­male never should have been sent out on her own.

‘‘If I was to have a heart at­tack in Mel­bourne, I would have two paramedics come to me.

‘‘But out here ap­par­ently it’s dif­fer­ent? Why are we dif­fer­ent to any­where else?

‘‘As a re­gional com­mu­nity, we are get­ting pushed to the side.

‘‘Point blank: we need two paramedics man­ning our sta­tion 24/7.

‘‘We can­not con­tinue putting our com­mu­nity at risk and we can’t keep putting our paramedics un­der such enor­mous pres­sure.’’

The Am­bu­lance Union has been lob­by­ing the state gov­ern­ment to put an end to sin­gle of­fi­cer emer­gency am­bu­lance crew­ing.

It says there are 51 am­bu­lance sta­tions across Vic­to­ria that need to be con­verted to two of­fi­cer crew­ing. The union wants a com­mit­ment from the gov­ern­ment to con­vert some 10 or 12 sta­tions as soon as pos­si­ble and phase the rest in over their three-year term if they are re-elected.

A pub­lic meet­ing will be held with Am­bu­lance Vic­to­ria on Oc­to­ber 15 at 6pm at the Shire Hall. The meet­ing will dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion at the Rochester Sta­tion. Ques­tions must be sub­mit­ted prior to rochcommho@com­mu­ni­ty­house.org.au or drop them in to Rochester Com­mu­nity House at 43 Mackay St.

‘ The work­ing con­di­tions at Rochester have al­ready bro­ken one para­medic due to re­spond­ing to cases ’ on their own — Olga Bar­tasek

Photo: Luke Hemer

Rochester res­i­dents are fighting for a bet­ter am­bu­lance ser­vice.

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