A Victorian patient who went into cardiac arrest died after waiting nearly 40 minutes for specialist paramedics.
This comes amid a report in The Herald Sun which found that on 17 December a third of Melbourne’s population was without specialist MICA (mobile intensive care ambulance) paramedics, because of a shortage of ambulance staff. The inner west of Melbourne also experienced a similar decrease on 17 December and 18 December.
“We don’t have enough MICA at this time to provide the kind of service that the community expects,” Danny Hill, general secretary of the Victorian Ambulance Union, told 3AW on December 20.
In an email to The Epoch Times, a spokesperson for Ambulance Victoria confirmed that a man “who was having difficulty breathing” called Triple Zero (000) at 9:23 p.m. on 15 December.
At first paramedics responded quickly to the call but could not enter the property and called fire services for assistance.
“Then, after gaining access, the paramedics sought MICA assistance at 9:58 pm for a patient in cardiac arrest. The closest MICA crew was removed from another case,” the spokesperson said.
The Herald Sun reports that MICA paramedics were not dispatched until 10:05 pm
Hill told 3AW that paramedics were just 900 meters from the cardiac arrest patient but could not arrive in time because they were caring for a patient with back pain.
“Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence that we see where mica paramedics are not available because they are attending to low acuity cases,” Hill said.
MICA paramedics are usually left for time-critical cases such as cardiac arrest, severe asthma with blocked airways, and difficult births, but staff shortages have shifted these specialist paramedics to low priority cases.
Ambulance Victoria also told The Epoch Times that reports in other media groups that Ambulance Victoria was forced to close the Altona branch were incorrect and that only a MICA shift in early January cannot be refunded. .
The spokesperson also confirmed that there was a staff shortage at Warnambool on 12 December due to the ill health of several employees.
“It was fixed within an hour and service was not affected,” the spokesperson said.
Asked why there is such a shortage, Hill said Ambulance Victoria had not kept up with recruitment as both the population and the workload continued to increase.
“It’s not just MICA, it’s education, it’s communication, it’s other support services, but really MICA is probably the most important,” Hill said.
In October, Hill warned that paramedics and ambulance workers were under significant stress and burnout due to short statewide response times, The Herald Sun reported. Between April and June, ambulances reached the target within 15 minutes in 73.1 percent of life-threatening cases, down from 75.1 percent.
An Ambulance Victoria spokesperson also urged Victorians to consider other ways to save Triple Zero (000) for emergencies and less urgent health needs such as their GP, pharmacist or nurse-on-call (1300 60 60 24) has urged.
The spokesperson said Ambulance Victoria has made several changes to recent recruitment and training requirements, providing better access for advanced life support (ALS) paramedics who wish to upskill MICA.
“We are also in the process of recruiting additional intensive care paramedics,” the spokesman said.