86-year old woman dies after two hour wait for ambulance

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Paramedics say that a tragic case where an 86-year Williamstown woman with heatstroke died following a two-hour wait for an ambulance during last week’s heat-wave is further evidence of an ambulance system in crisis.

Paramedics reported delays of seven hours and extensive ramping across the network during last week’s heat-wave. An elderly patient waited on a stretcher at the Northern Hospital for over nine hours for a bed. No crews were available to attend to a patient in Hoppers Crossing in a motorbike accident. He had skin missing from his face and a fractured femur with the bone sticking out.

Hundreds of paramedics will converge on Ambulance Victoria HQ in Doncaster at 10am this morning (375 Manningham Rd, Doncaster) accusing Health Minister David Davis and Ambulance Vic CEO Greg Sassella of ignoring the crisis in Victoria’s ambulance service.

“Even during relatively quiet times, Victoria’s ambulance service is woefully inadequate. However last week the system went into meltdown,” said Steve McGhie, Victorian Secretary of Ambulance Employees Australia (United Voice – Ambulance Section). 

“Paramedics send our condolences to the family of the deceased lady. No patient in her condition should have to wait two hours for an ambulance. It is unacceptable.”

“Yet instead of addressing this crisis, Premier Napthine and Minister Davis are spending enormous of amounts of taxpayer money trying to con the public into thinking that everything’s just fine and dandy.”

“The public and paramedics are not buying the Minister’s spin. They know the crisis in our ambulance service is just getting worse and worse. Victorians deserve a much better Health Minister and a much better ambulance service.”

“And unfortunately, this government is actually pouring petrol on the fire, trying to cut paramedics’ entitlements and ensure they remain Australia’s lowest paid paramedics.”

“This is going to cause more paramedics to look at moving interstate, where they can earn almost $30,000 more for doing exactly same the job.”

Paramedics say the Government’s current wage offer, which Minister Davis spent almost half a million dollars of taxpayer money trumpeting in newspaper advertisements recently, threatens to further erode public confidence in Victoria’s embattled ambulance system and cause more paramedics to find jobs interstate.

Chief among paramedics’ concerns is a plan to replace four-year trained paramedics with volunteers, who have just 40 hours’ training. 

Despite the Minister’s claims of making a generous pay offer he is actually trying to cut key entitlements that will reduce paramedics’ take-home pay, and further increase the yawning gap in pay between Victorian ambulance officers and their interstate counterparts.

He wants to eliminate paramedics’ rolled-in pay rate and reduce the rights of part-time paramedics to access to over-time pay.

Furthermore, Minister Davis wants to delay by at least two years a work-value case assessing if Victorian paramedics are indeed underpaid compared to those interstate. This will ensure Victoria has Australia’s lowest paid paramedics for the foreseeable future. 

An Age/Nielsen opinion poll late last year ranked health and hospitals as the issue of most concern to Victorian voters. In a worrying finding for the state government, just 10 per cent of voters said the health system had improved since the 2010 election, while 44 per cent said it had stayed the same and 40 per cent said it had deteriorated.


HEATWAVE: AMBULANCE SYSTEM GOES INTO MELTDOWN

Case 1: Job came through as a "collapsed 86 year-old" in Williamstown. Call time: 17.38hrs. Crew arrived 19.39hrs. Patient found unconscious with heatstroke. Body temperate of 40 °C with unrecordable blood pressure. The woman later died.

Case 2: A crew arrived at the Northern Hospital at 21.00hrs with an elderly patient on the stretcher. Patient was ramped on the stretcher until 06.30hrs the following morning.

Case 3: Patient in Hoppers Crossing had a motorbike accident. He had skin missing from his face and a fractured femur with bone sticking out. Single lone paramedic sent to case as no crews were available.

Case 4: In Port Melbourne on January 15-16 patient fell and suffered injury to knee, with large laceration requiring stitches and experiencing significant pain. Call came through at 19.20hrs. Ambulance arrived at 02.43hrs

During the heat wave many crews did not get meal breaks and paramedics had no access to cold drinking water. AEAV had to organise water for paramedics.

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