Ballarat CPAV: use it or lose it, paramedics told

PARAMEDICS with access to the Ballarat’s new Complex Patient Ambulance Vehicle (CPAV) were told to use it or lose it, but Ambulance Victoria says the lifesaving equipment will not be pulled from the region.

The Courier obtained an email sent to ambulance employees two weeks ago telling them the CPAV vehicle based in the Grampians was being under-utilised and the Royal Flying Doctor Service was talking about pulling the resource out of the region unless the situation was turned around quickly.

But Ambulance Victoria Regional Manager Greg Leach told The Courier not only were there no plans to move the vehicle but planning was under way to increase its operational hours to be available 24 hours a day.

“We hope to finalise this arrangement before Easter,” he said.

Mr Leach said Grampians employees had been alerted to the “availability” of the vehicle to manage and transport urgent and non-urgent patients with complex medical or physical needs.

Patients are deemed to need a CPAV unit when they weigh in excess of 150 kilograms or are of “unusual proportion”.

These conditions often make transport on a standard stretcher or in a standard ambulance vehicle impractical or unsafe.

But Mr Leach said the CPAV also catered for patients needing multiple pieces of specialised equipment – such as ECMO or intra-aortic balloon pumps – that could not be properly accommodated in a customary ambulance.

Two Ballarat residents died after long waits for CPAV vehicles in 2012.

The Courier investigated use of Victoria’s CPAVs and Freedom of Information documents showed the average wait time in Ballarat during 2012 was 12 hours and 37 minutes, excluding those in the first quarter when pre-bookings were factored into response times.

Ambulance Victoria announced a CPAV ambulance for Ballarat last April, amid ongoing calls from the community.

Mr Leach said the specialist ambulance vehicle, operated by the Royal Flying Doctors Service, had been operational since September and was linked in to Ambulance Victoria’s emergency and non-emergency caseload.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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