AN ambulance referral service will be introduced in the North East next year in a bid to reduce the burden on paramedics.
Minister for Health David Davis yesterday announced that the Ambulance Victoria service, which has been operating in metropolitan Melbourne and Barwon, would expand to the Hume region from next year.
But the paramedics union said it’s just a “Band-Aid” fix that won’t address the deeper problems of staff shortages and communication.
The referral service will see patients assessed over the phone to determine if an emergency ambulance is necessary.
If it’s not, then callers will be transferred to paramedics and nurses trained in telephone triage and patients might then be referred to alternative care options like locum doctors or nursing services.
Mr Davis’ office predicts the service will handle about 3800 calls in the Hume region.
Regional manager for Ambulance Victoria Garry Cook welcomed the commitment.
“Anything we can do to reduce the demand and free up emergency services is a good thing,” he said.
“About one in 10 calls that don’t really need an ambulance end up having one sent out.
“This means there will be about 10 per cent more ambulances available than at the moment.”
Mr Cook stressed that patients who needed an ambulance would be sent one immediately.
But Victorian secretary of the paramedic union Steve McGhie said it was “just one small step” in addressing the way calls are assessed.
“There needs to be an overhaul of the whole communication system,” he said.
“And it still doesn’t address the fact that we need more resources in Hume ... I hope it’s not a way of avoiding that.”