Looking forward to Triple 000 inquiry
WE read with concern and a sense of déjà-vu your front page report about the unacceptable delay by the ambulance service in attending to a serious injury to an elderly lady within a few hundred metres of the local ambulance station.
At Howqua Hills, ever since the ambulance dispatch “system” was changed from local (Wangaratta) some years ago to a centralised system run by ESTA (000) there have been many instances of similar delays and unsatisfactory performance.
We have no criticism of the local ambulance officers - quite the contrary, our first-hand experience is that they are always professional and caring, and our impression is that they are often as frustrated as us with the poor procedures imposed by the 000 system.
The most serious problem is that 000 will not give a caller an approximate estimate of the arrival time of an ambulance.
They will not even say whether an ambulance is attending from Mansfield or Benalla or Euroa.
The time difference, 45 minutes or 90 minutes, is vital - and could mean the difference between life and death.
Without this basic information, most callers from our area would be better advised to transport the patient to hospital themselves, if they can safely do so.
We have had lengthy, but unsatisfactory, correspondence with the Minister for Health regarding the inappropriateness of the 000 system in country areas like ours.
The minister does not even recognise that there is a serious weakness in the 000 dispatch system.
The Melbourne Coroner is soon to conduct an enquiry into the deaths resulting from the “thunderstorm asthma” event of November 2016.
One matter canvassed will no doubt be why some callers to 000 were not told that, on the day, the ambulance system was seriously overloaded, and that the callers should transport the patient to hospital themselves - not wait for an indeterminate period for an ambulance which may not arrive at all.
We eagerly await the outcome of this enquiry, but fear that there will be no improvement unless the dispatch system is changed to recognise the importance of local knowledge and to give callers the information that they really need. Lindsay Ingram, Secretary, Howqua Hills Progress