Wimmera first responders rise to high demand

YARRIAMBIACK Paramedics and Ambulance Community Officers are responding to code 1 call outs faster than ever, despite a higher number of incidents. 

Ambulance Victoria’s quarterly report showed Yarriambiack paramedics responded in less than 15 minutes to 44.8 percent of incidents compared to 35.6 percent last year. 

The number of cases have increased from 69, 753 code 1 callouts last year to 78, 130  to September. 

Yarriambiack ambulance services, despite additional pressure, have improved their response times from 22 minutes and a 11 seconds to 22 minutes and six seconds. 

Traffic, distance, availability and demand all factor into how quickly emergency services can respond. 

Ambulance Victoria Grampians Regional Director Terry Marshall said they are continually striving to get to the scene faster. 

“We chase down seconds to try and improve our response performance all the time,” Mr Marshall said. 

“We know the sooner we get to the case, the better the outcome, particularly if it’s something like a cardiac arrest.” 

He said in tracking times they make a record of every task. 

“We track times from when we pick up the call in our call centre, send it to a paramedics pager, they hit a button in the ambulance to say they’re responding, when they arrive they hit another button, when they load in the patient they hit another button,” he said.

“When we get to the hospital, we track how long it takes to get a patient onto a hospital bed and then for the paramedic to be available to the community again.” 

The Yarriambiack team allocates paramedics and Ambulance Community Officers in Rupanyup and Warracknabeal and a group of ACOs at the Hopetoun and Patchewollock branch.

ACOs are first responders employed on a casual basis to provide advanced first aid in remote communities where the caseload is low and the branch is not staffed full-time.

There are about 650 Ambulance Community Officers providing services to rural communities at about 80 designated branches.

Mr Marshall said Yarriambiack teams have the challenge of allocating paramedics and ACOs to cover a vast landscape. 

“The challenge in Yarriambiack is, it’s very geographically dispersed throughout the LGA," he said. 

“I can guarantee you, if I put the ambulance up this end, the case will be on the other end.” 

He said ACOs provide a selfless service, which is often the difference between life and death. 

“It’s an invaluable service, these people are usually long serving members of the community. I can’t speak highly enough of them, they’re really wonderful people, they’re a really important part of what we do at AV,” he said. 

This year the flu season hit harder than previous years with more than 66, 000 laboratory-confirmed cases across Victoria; resulting in hospitals treating more patients than anticipated. 

Mr Marshall said the flu season contributed to additional pressures to the healthcare system. 

“This year we had an extremely bad flu season; this year was really quite challenging for the healthcare system. There’ s a lot more people calling up,” Mr Marshall said. 

“You look at Horsham for example, their number of requests for assistance went up 20 percent, that’s a huge increase.” 

Mr Marshall said allocating their resources can be tricky, especially while festivals are on or during the Christmas period. 

“Around Christmas times you have a huge population move to around the coast, because it’s summer. People want to be around the beach,” he said. 

“You might have a duty like a festival. Like we’ve got ‘Spilt Milk’ in Ballarat in November. We’ve got to allocate some of our resources to that in case we get a peak workload.”

Mr Marshall said the community also plays a crucial role in assisting with medical incidents. 

He said there’s a number of ways people can help paramedics, such as giving accurate information and making the scene safe for them. 

“Make the scene safe for the paramedics, they’re just arriving on the scene, they’ve never been there before. I always ask people to help the paramedics, they’re only there to provide the very best care that they can,” he said. 

“Help them, be kind to them, be respectful and professional to them so they can get their job done.” 

Earlier this year AV launched their GoodSAM responder app, which connects Victorians in cardiac arrest with first-aid-qualified responders and defibrillators in the critical minutes before paramedics arrive.

There are about 6,500 Victorians registered as GoodSAM Responders. In the first 6 months of operation in Victoria, GoodSAM Responders contributed to saving 20 lives.

Wimmera Health Care Group Critical Care Nurse Casey Kosch provides first-aid training in Murtoa. 

She said rural and regional areas have benefitted greatly from the application. 

“What happens is, if you’re in a 5km radius, you get pinged, then you can say whether you can go or not,” Ms Kosch said.  

“This is good in rural communities, because you don’t always have paramedics close by; it can really save lives,” she said. 

She said providing CPR in those crucial moments could be the difference between life or death. 

“Evidence shows that if CPR, if done effectively, it vastly improves survival rates. Over 6000 Victorians have heart attacks each year.

“It all comes down to improving quality of life.”

Mrs Kosch said her lessons teach students how to use apps like GoodSAM and Emergency Plus. 

“I teach all my students about the Emergecny Plus app which gives latitude and longitude of the patients location, even if you’re on a farm property,” she said. 

“It’s really important for people on the other end of the phone to give good directions. Giving good directions and landmarks will allow paramedics to get there faster.”