Ambulance staff shortage causes havoc

A LACK of staff caused havoc for Ballarat’s ambulance services for a consecutive weekend.

Ambulance Victoria staff shortages resulted in the call-out to a Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance (MICA) from Melbourne to replace unfilled MICA shifts in Ballarat on Saturday. But en-route to Ballarat, the MICA unit was diverted to an accident at Ballan, leaving Ballarat without a MICA for the day. 

As a result, a Mount Pleasant man with chest pains was transported to hospital without the assistance of a MICA unit.

It follows reports of previous ambulance shortages last weekend where police units were used to carry patients, including one suspected heart attack victim, to a Ballarat hospital. 

Ballarat paramedic Luke Frazer said such situations had serious repercussions for any seriously ill or injured patients in the Ballarat region.

“Alternately it could mean the difference between life and death,” he said.

Mr Frazer said it was a combination of the system for filling vacancies, which he believed  was not sufficient enough, and an overall lack of staff in the Ballarat area that resulted in such situations.

A paramedic of nine years, Mr Frazer also said the issues revolving around the lack of staff was at a all-time high.

Ambulance Victoria Grampians regional manager Greg Leach said it was unusual for all rostered MICA paramedics to be sick on the same day.

“We had three unfilled MICA shifts in Ballarat on Saturday as paramedics called in sick,” he said.

“When this happens, we try to recall paramedics to increase our coverage in the area.

“Despite our best efforts, unfortunately our recalls for these shifts were unsuccessful.

“We arranged for a MICA unit normally based in Melbourne to spend the day in Ballarat so we could increase our coverage in the area.

“They were dispatched to a traffic accident in Ballan at 11.50am. 

“This was a complex case, with the crew on scene for a number of hours,” he said.

“Paramedics took them (patients) to the Royal Melbourne Hospital and, upon the crew leaving the hospital, returned to their branch.”

Mr Leach said given the proximity to the hospital and the distance of the nearest available back-up MICA, the Ballarat ambulance crew chose to take the Mount Pleasant patient to the Ballarat Base Hospital on a Code one response (lights and sirens) rather than wait for MICA to attend.

He also told The Courier that Ambulance Victoria was looking to replicate the model operating in metropolitan Melbourne to enhance services in Ballarat.

This means that when a employee is absent from a shift, like sick leave days, they will be replaced by paramedics from the local area who are on duty and will result in less reliance on paramedics to work voluntary and a full shift overtime.

Last weekend it was reported that ambulance services were cut to three units in Ballarat on Saturday/Sunday morning.

alicia.thomas@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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