‘LIVES AT RISK’
Meeting called to address ambo staffing levels
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Rochester residents are fighting for a better ambulance service.