Ambo rostering concerns highlighted

INADEQUACIES in Ambulance Victoria’s centralised rostering system have been blamed for a recent MICA paramedic shortage in the Latrobe Valley.

State Opposition Health spokesperson Wade Noonan raised his “deep concern” over recent incidents of inadequate MICA staffing levels in the Valley and Wodonga regions, with State Health Minister David Davis last week.

Citing an article in The Express which told of a patient’s death from respiratory complications in October when there were no MICA paramedics available to respond to a call for assistance, Mr Noonan told Mr Davis there had been an “apparent failure” by AV’s rostering division to provide “adequate staffing levels” on the night.

Mr Noonan also referred to The Border Mail’s report of a “dire situation” this month which “left Wodonga dangerously exposed with just one paramedic across a 14-hour shift on the busiest night of the week”.

Mr Noonan referred to a March article in the same paper which indicated shifts had been frequently reduced to a single paramedic in that region.

The Latrobe Valley incident occurred when “there should have been a MICA unit and Single Response Unit” covering the area, Mr Noonan said.

Referring to claims by AV blaming unplanned sick leave for the service gap, Mr Noonan said “I am advised that in both the Latrobe Valley and Wodonga cases that paramedics would have been available to fill vacant shifts had an appropriate period of notice been provided, although some paramedics claim they were never contacted by the rostering division of AV and offered an opportunity to fill the vacant shift”.

“While I’m prepared to recognise that unplanned sick and family leave is unavoidable and often comes with very little notice, the centralised rostering arrangements seem to be compounding the problem for regional and rural branches,” Mr Noonan said.

Rostering is centralised in Melbourne and Mr Noonan called for “problems” with the system to be urgently resolved by the State Government.

AV defended its “statewide rostering platform”, saying it provided a “more structured and robust rostering system for the rural regions”.

AV Gippsland regional manager Mick Stephenson said the new system allowed AV to “provide the best coverage for the local community and move ambulances and staff during peak demand times”.

“We know that survival of cardiac arrest patients has doubled in rural communities since we began to operate as a single state ambulance service and our research has confirmed the increased availability of MICA services, in line with our planning, has contributed to this excellent result,” Mr Stephenson said.

“We make every effort to ensure paramedics are rostered to each shift.

“Like anyone else in the community, they sometimes get sick and have family emergencies, and they are unable to fill a shift at short notice.

“We explore all options to fill those vacancies including offering overtime, however if no one volunteers for that shift then it is not filled.”