Bid to end trivial ambo calls

BALLARAT ambulances were urgently deployed when a person had a nightmare and another sustained a small scratch from a cat, paramedics have claimed.

Paramedic Adam Phillips said the “code one” cases were just two examples of call-outs to patients with non-urgent health conditions in the past month.

Also, paramedics were sometimes abused by family members of seriously ill patients when they took more than 15 minutes to arrive.

From April, non-urgent triple-zero cases will be diverted when Ambulance Victoria’s RefComm referral system is rolled out to rural and regional areas. 

The idea is that triple-zero callers with problems such as toothaches or head colds can be referred to other options, including transport by a non-emergency ambulance or being seen by a locum doctor or nursing service.

Health Minister David Davis said the referral system, which has been operating in Melbourne for more than a decade, would ensure Victorians who called triple zero for an ambulance would receive the right treatment in the right health setting.

Mr Phillips said in the past month Ballarat paramedics were deployed urgently to help someone who had a small scratch from a cat, a person who vomited once and a person who kept a family member up all night with a chest infection.

He said four ambulances had been dispatched to a code-zero, highest-priority emergency and paramedics found the patient standing at the front door with a bag packed for a physio appointment.

In other anecdotal cases related to The Courier, paramedics had been asked to help people move pianos and find missing television remotes.

Mr Phillips said RefComm was a step in the right direction but he remained sceptical, as the service would function alongside the existing “inherently flawed” and “inflexible” call-taking system.

“Someone with a paper cut, if they answer yes to breathing abnormally, that case will never reach RefComm,” Mr Phillips said.

Ballarat State Emergency Communications Centre duty manager Mat Sing said RefComm had been trialed in the Barwon region for the past 12 months and had little impact.

“Just by answering the right questions, they never make it to the referral service,” he said.

rachel.afflick@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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