Union warns Border patients may die

PATIENTS will suffer and some might even die because of paramedic crews’ struggle to get patients admitted to Border hospitals, a peak union group warned yesterday.

The ongoing issue was symptomatic of a health system “in crisis” and stuck “in gridlock”, Ambulance Employees Association of Victoria secretary Steve McGhie said.

Ambulances are being “ramped” at the Albury and Wodonga hospitals for up to two hours.

That leaves paramedics having to treat patients on stretchers as they wait for a ward bed to become available.

Delays of up to two hours — and sometimes more — are preventing paramedics from taking new callouts.

Mr McGhie said the result of that could be extremely dire.

“That’s the reality of it,” Mr McGhie said.

“And patients will die either because they’re unable to get the appropriate hospital treatment because they can’t get it in a quick enough time, or (paramedics will be) unable to get an ambulance to someone in an emergency situation who desperately needs one.”

Albury Wodonga Health chief executive Stuart Spring agreed this week that a lack of beds and an outdated Albury hospital emergency department had exacerbated the situation.

Albury MP Greg Aplin will use the ongoing problems as part of his argument to secure NSW government funding for either a new or significantly revamped emergency department.

Mr McGhie said neither the hospital nor Ambulance Victoria was responsible for ramping, which was “only going to get worse”.

Instead, he blamed inadequate Victorian government funding for hospitals across the state.

“It’s not the staff at all — they’re fantastic and they do the best they can do under difficult circumstances,” he said.

Mr McGhie said Ambulance Victoria could not be blamed, “as they are powerless to do anything”.

“You have a number of ambulances bringing patients up to the hospital in Wodonga and if there’s no beds you can’t offload your patients,” he said.

“If the government can’t provide more beds at Wodonga and more staff to treat the patients then they must make sure there are more ambulance resources on duty.”

Mr McGhie said the demand on the ambulance service was increasing each year by between 6 to 7 per cent.

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