SPECIALIST ambulance units are being deployed around four times each week in regional Victoria, official figures show.
Ambulance Victoria said this week that the three rural-based Complex Patient Ambulance Vehicles attended 281 call-outs since mid-2011, including in recent cases where obese patients waited for as long as eight hours for CPAVs to arrive from Melbourne.
Two of the specialist units are located in Melbourne hospitals, with one each in Bendigo, Maffra and Geelong.
In October, Wendouree woman Susan Moroney died while waiting for a CPAV unit to arrive, less than two months after she had made a public call for the equipment to be allocated to Ballarat.
Ballarat man David Harrison died in hospital this month after waiting more than two hours and last week a Horsham man waited 10 hours for a CPAV to arrive.
Ambulance Victoria Grampians regional manager Greg Leach said in the period from July 2011 to October 2012, CPAVs transported patients about once per month in the Grampians region.
“Ambulance Victoria has five CPAV vehicles which are strategically located to support service delivery for special needs cases,” Mr Leach said.
“They require two specially trained staff and are not just used for the transport of very large patients but also for patients requiring complex medical treatment such as an intra-aortic balloon pump and complex inter-hospital transfers.”
He said the organisation remained concerned about patients who face long waits for CPAV units to arrive but resources were used to best support the broader community’s needs while ensuring the safety of paramedics.
“Other lifting equipment is also currently being rolled out across the state including the stair chair and lifting cushion,” he said.
The Ambulance Employees Association used a state government budget submission to call for a CPAV unit to be based in Ballarat but the request failed to receive funding.