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 Ambos’ call out system fails 

Ambos’ call out system fails

26 Mar, 2012 12:28 PM
EIGHT people requiring “life or death” medical attention had to wait for assistance on a recent Sunday morning due to an Ambulance Victoria communications centre breakdown.

An internal email to ambulance staff, seen by MW, said the in-car case information system relied on by paramedics failed just after midnight on Saturday, March 17.

At 12.30am Sunday the system that provides communications centre staff with paramedics’ locations and availability also failed.

Forty cases across Melbourne were pending at 3.30am Sunday – meaning there was no ambulance available to respond.

Eight of those cases were life-threatening code one emergencies. Government guidelines stipulate ambulances should be dispatched to code one cases – such as a cardiac arrest or serious traffic accident – within 100 seconds, with paramedics on the scene in 15 minutes.

Twenty-two code-two cases, requiring an urgent response, were also waiting. Paramedics did not reach one code-two patient for five hours. The emergency response time is 25 minutes. Ambulance Victoria would not comment on the number of pending cases recorded over the weekend or on dispatch and response times.

The paramedics’ in-car computer system was still down at 7am.

Ambulance Employees Association secretary Steve McGhie said code-one cases should never have to wait.

‘‘On a normal Saturday night there may be a dozen or up to 20 patients that are pending but the majority would be code three, non-urgent cases,’’ he said.

Mr McGhie said the figures provided “damning evidence” of a failing system that puts lives at risk. “These problems threaten lives. People will die.”

Ambulance Victoria regional manager Cath Anderson confirmed Ambulance Victoria’s communications service had an ‘‘outage’’ early on Sunday morning.

A senior paramedic who worked the shift said it was “chaotic” and “relentless”.

Ambulance Victoria said the cause of the communication outage is being investigated.

Have you or your family been affected by ambulance delays? Email Beau Donelly here.

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