'Bloody madness': One ambo for all Wodonga

ONLY one paramedic and a volunteer were left to handle Wodonga cases on Saturday night in what one senior ambulance officer yesterday called “bloody madness”.

On the busiest night of the week, the single paramedic was left as the only officer on the 14-hour night shift that would usually have four staff in two ambulances.

Ambulance Victoria says it was caught short by sickies but the union says that simply isn’t good enough.

“This is the last straw,” a senior paramedic said.

“A city this size was reduced to one paramedic with a volunteer for 14 hours.

“This is the first time that’s happened while I’ve been here and luckily there were only five jobs on Saturday night.”

In March, The Border Mail revealed that a Friday night shift had also been reduced to a single paramedic for the third time in 10 days. 

The senior paramedic, who did not want to be named, said Ambulance Victoria responded the last time the issue was in the papers.

“It changed for a little while after it was first highlighted in the media but it has slowly worked its way back to the point where it was last night.”

“But it’s bloody madness for a city this size, on a Saturday night, to be reduced to that,” the paramedic said.

Ambulance Victoria Hume regional manager Garry Cook said they explored all options to fill the shift.

“Just like anyone else in the community, paramedics are human and they get sick from time to time. 

“We actively explored all options to fill those vacancies including offering overtime to paramedics, however if no one volunteers for that overtime, then those shifts are usually unable to be filled. 

“We called in our volunteer Ambulance Community Officers.” 

But Victorian state secretary of the Ambulance Employees Australia union Steve McGhie doubts the ambulance service tried everyone available.

“Our experience says that doesn’t happen,” he said.

“The question is why isn’t the pool big enough to cover the absences?

“This amounts to a reduction in service; no offence to the volunteer but they are not trained to do what a paramedic does.

“Wodonga is a city of almost 40,000 people, you are supposed to have two crews — that is what the community would expect, and should expect.”