Call-referral service for Wodonga ambos

WODONGA is likely to get a call-referral service this year to stop ambulances being sent to people suffering minor injuries or sickness.

The system has been operating in Melbourne for the past few years and has just started in the Geelong region.

“We know that we send ambulances to people who don’t necessarily need an ambulance,” Ambulance Victoria Hume region manager Garry Cook said.

In Melbourne it has detected bizarre cases such as someone who could not stop the itch of a mosquito bite, and a bleeding pimple that had been described to a triple-0 operator as a serious, uncontrolled haemorrhage.

The new service would refer people to, for example, a GP clinic, a nurse-on-call line or other allied health agencies.

Mr Cook said the metropolitan program had taken at least 10 per cent of calls out of the system increasing the availability of ambulances significantly.

The Geelong program got under way just before Christmas.

“Our objective is to continue to roll that out in regional Victoria in 2013,” he said.

A major aim is to allow the service to pay more attention to emergency cases, such as cardiac arrest, and also detect hoax callers.

“It’s about getting ambulances to the right patients and not seeing ambulances unnecessarily in areas where we’ve just got continual demand,” Mr Cook said.

The Melbourne call-referral service steered 31,781 cases away from an ambulance in 2010.

Mr Cook said that under the call-referral system, people phoning for an ambulance would be asked a series of questions.

“After maybe three or four questions you get the feeling that this person clearly doesn’t need an ambulance to go to hospital,” he said.

Mr Cook said Ambulance Victoria was also looking at performance parameters beyond just response times.

“The question is ‘what are our patient outcomes, what are our patient satisfaction from the treatment they receive from ambulance?,” he said.

“It’s not how quick you get to a fire, it’s whether you put the fire out.”