AMBULANCE Victoria will roll out its RefCom referral service to Ballarat by the end of next year to help ensure more ambulances are available for life-threatening call-outs.
The service, which has been operating in Melbourne since 2003, is to be phased into the state’s five regional areas by the end of 2013.
Ambulance Victoria manager of communications and referral services Danny McGennisken said RefCom referred non-life threatening triple-0 calls to alternative medical care providers, such as locum doctors, contracted nurses services and self care.
“Ambulances should spend less of their time transferring patients to emergency departments that can be handled by other providers,” he said.
“That means our emergency ambulances are available for our sickest patients.”
Ambulance Victoria will implement the service with a phased approached, with Barwon South West the first to be rolled out.
It is not currently known when the Grampians will transfer to RefCom, but the region is likely to come early in the timeline, Mr McGennisken said.
The referral service handled more than 40,000 cases in Melbourne in the 2010-11 financial year.
Mr McGennisken said he expected it to handle more than 10,000 cases per year in regional Victoria once fully rolled out.
“By having less patients presented to emergency, patients that are low accuity, it should lead to less congestion of emergency departments,” he said.
He said the phasing in of the service to the regions had been made possible with the achievement of Ambulance Victoria’s statewide computer aided dispatch system in March.
But Labor health spokesman Wade Noonan said RefCom should have been funded for regional Victoria as far back as 2010.
“The Baillieu government has quietly shelved the funding for this vital service without a word of explanation,” Mr Noonan said.
Mr Noonan said that country Victorians were entitled to an answer as to where the money for the RefCom service had gone.