THE Mitta Valley did not have a local ambulance service for almost two weeks over Christmas and New Year.
A staff error at Ambulance Victoria’s communication centre at Ballarat wiped Mitta ambulance volunteers from a list used by dispatchers from Christmas Eve to January 3.
It meant any calls for medical help had to wait an hour or more for ambulances to arrive from Wodonga or Tallangatta.
And the volunteers who ran the service during that time were none the wiser.
The volunteers, who were rostered on over the 11-day period when the valley’s service was “turned off”, are angry and upset that they were unaware of the problem.
They say lives were put at risk at a time when the valley was buzzing with tourists.
Mitta Ambulance’s longest serving member, Robyn Kelly, yesterday said it was only luck that there were just two local calls over the holidays and neither needed hospitalisation.
“If someone has a cardiac arrest, a serious chest pain, or there was a drowning, a response time of an hour is not what we’re here for,” Mrs Kelly said.
Ambulance Victoria said the problem was caused by a Ballarat staff member failing to restore Mitta to the availability list after fixing a technical fault.
Ambulance Victoria Hume regional manager Garry Cook said the service had introduced daily checks to ensure all units were logged on.
He said a Tallangatta crew had attended one of two local calls to the service but transport was not required.
The caller in the other case had cancelled their request.
Volunteers on duty couldn’t travel and were unable to indulge in a festive drink.
Ambulance Victoria management has since apologised to the volunteers and said it had taken steps to ensure it didn’t happen again.
But Mrs Kelly said the volunteers would like a written apology.