AMBULANCE Victoria responded to 21 cases of people being locked in hot cars across the Ballarat region this summer.
But a leading Ballarat paediatrician has questioned the findings, saying they do not reflect the severity of the issue in the community.
Ambulance Victoria yesterday revealed there were more than 600 cases of people being locked in cars across the state from September 2013 to January 2014.
Of the 620 triple-zero call-outs across the state, paramedics attended to 21 in the Ballarat region. The figures averaging to one call-out every week over five months.
Suburbs within the 3350 postcode recorded the highest number of call-outs, with paramedics called to eight cases of people being locked in cars, followed by five in Sebastopol and four in Wendouree.
In comparison Melbourne’s 3000 postcode recorded only 13 call-outs over the five-month period.
Two thirds of the 620 cases involved children under the age of 13 being locked in a car.
But Dr David Tickell, who is Ballarat Health Services’ head of paediatrics, said the data could not accurately reflect the severity of cases.
“They are not hospital figures. Ambulance statistics do not give us an idea of how many severe cases there were,” Dr Tickell said.
“Not that I am playing down the problem, but the data is not a hard and fast way to measure the problem in the community.”
Dr Tickell said there was no excuse for parents leaving their children unattended in cars on hot days.
“Children have a much higher metabolic rate, which quickens dehydration, and children are more helpless – they can’t fend for themselves in hot cars,” he said.
While Dr Tickell doesn’t always treat babies or young children for heat-related injuries, he said that didn’t mean incidents weren’t occurring in Ballarat.
“A lot more of the minor incidents would be taken care of by emergency department staff,” he said.
“We (paediatricians) would treat severe problems, but thankfully we have not seen any incidents this summer.”
Dr Tickell said it was easy for two-minute jobs like paying for petrol or buying milk from the supermarket to be prolonged unexpectedly.
“I think that is what is happening in these instances ... and if the weather is cooler, this normally wouldn’t be an issue,” he said.
The Ambulance Victoria data also found January was the busiest month for paramedics across the state, with 33% of call-outs recorded in the peak of summer.