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Ambulance Victoria funding boost welcomed

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By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

THE State Government has announced a $14.8 million funding boost for Ambulance Victoria, to improve access to emergency care across the state.

The funding will go towards extra paramedics, ambulances and Peak Period Units being deployed in growing areas across regional Victoria, including Gisborne, from this month.

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Other regional areas, including Benalla, Castlemaine and Daylesford, will get extra resources and convert from on-call coverage to 24-hour shift coverage.

Seven additional PPUs will also be provided to the metropolitan region this financial year, including Epping, Mernda and Craigieburn.

“This funding will see even more paramedics employed across the state, as well as extra ambulance units and surge shifts, and better referral service capacity,” parliamentary secretary for health Steve McGhie said.

As part of the boost, 77 new graduate paramedics will start work by March to fill rural vacancies, including 16 in the Hume region, and an additional 12 triage practitioners will be employed statewide to provide greater alterative care pathways to patients who don’t require a lights-and-sirens ambulance response.

Although many politicians welcomed the funding, concerns remained about the towns not included in the boost.

Member for Northern Victoria Tania Maxwell said the funding was a ‘very positive step’, but raised the issue of resourcing in some areas including Seymour.

“We are so grateful for that funding that has come out but we still need to ensure that in geographical areas that can be difficult to navigate that we have a good response,” she said.

“We know that it is not sustainable to have every small town with a 24-hour station … however what we don’t want to see is lives being put at risk.”

In February 2020, Ms Maxwell created a petition to call for greater on-call ambulance resourcing in Seymour alongside resident Tony Hubbard, whose wife died while waiting 45 minutes for the town’s only overnight ambulance crew.

“They kept telling him, the ambulance is on its way, and that’s the vocabulary they use and the commentary that they use, so we’ve also looked at ways that can be changed, because he was expecting them to be five minutes away,” Ms Maxwell said.

In response, a State Government spokesperson has said its reviews had found Seymour is currently well resourced.

“While we’re always reviewing the allocation of resources, Ambulance Victoria has advised their current staffing levels are meeting the needs of the Seymour community and there are no issues with resourcing in Seymour at this time,” the spokesperson said.

Ms Maxwell intends to host meetings across her electorate where Ambulance Victoria can provide members of communities with information on response times, and other resources like the GoodSAM program, which allows those in need of emergency assistance to share their location immediately from their mobile device and connects responders with patients in the first critical minutes of cardiac arrest before paramedics arrive.

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