VICTORIA’S fleet of Mobile Intensive Care Ambulances are being left off the road and out of service because of a lack of paramedics to fill shifts.
Labor’s Parliamentary Secretary for Health Wade Noonan said 184 ambulance shifts in regional Victoria did not operate during the first six months of 2013 because of unfilled shifts.
There were 119 instances of highly trained specialist life-saving MICA ambulance shifts going unfilled.
In the Grampians region, eight MICA shifts and eight non-MICA shifts were unfilled between January and June.
“These figures reveal that regional communities are being left without ambulance coverage,” Mr Noonan said.
“Disturbingly, our most valuable and clinically-advanced MICA ambulance vehicles make up the majority of these unfilled shifts.
“The result is that ambulances are sitting idle because of staffing arrangements – it is a disaster waiting to happen.
“Every time an ambulance shift goes unfilled, entire communities are left without adequate emergency coverage and people living in many parts of the state are left dangerously exposed.”
Mr Noonan said the problem of dropped shifts had an impact on ambulance response times across Victoria.
“In regional Victoria, one in four ambulances is failing to respond to life-threatening emergencies within the government’s own 15-minute target,” he said.
Ambulance Victoria specialist services general manager Mark Rogers said despite the figure, Ambulance Victoria was putting more ambulances on the road than ever, with more than 99 per cent of shifts operating as scheduled.
“Every organisation has people call in sick and our paramedics are no different,” he said.
“Every time a paramedic is sick we work hard to replace them using relief staff, co-ordinating with managers and offering overtime.
“Filling more than 99 per cent of ambulance shifts contributes to our world-class patient outcomes including the best cardiac arrest survival rates in Australia, which are among the top four per cent in the world.’’
He said the number of relief staff across Victoria had been significantly increased in the past few years.
“This is reducing reliance on overtime and we are negotiating with the union to provide for more flexible use of these staff,” he said.