Colac care unit closure threatens ambulance service

COLAC and district is facing the alarming prospect of being without an ambulance or emergency department with the imminent closure of overnight urgent care at the city’s hospital. 

Colac Area Health (CAH) last week revealed it would shut the doors on its overnight urgent care unit from February 1 to meet a $255,000 funding cut by the federal government.

Under the move, the unit will not admit patients from 10pm to 7am. It is expected to place huge pressures on Ambulance Victoria,  which will need to transport patients to Geelong for emergencies, potentially leaving the town without an ambulance for up to three hours overnight. 

Ambulance Victoria Regional Barwon South West manager Mick Cameron warned paramedics would be out of reach in some cases. 

“Our ability to respond in a timely fashion to Colac and surrounding communities will most certainly suffer as a result,” Mr Cameron said. 

“The planned overnight closure of the Colac urgent care centre means that ambulances will have to travel much further to transport patients to a hospital.

“There will be up to a three-hour turnaround for paramedics in most cases when we transport patients to Geelong.” 

Mr Cameron said Ambulance Victoria was in talks with CAH and the Department of Health to minimise the impact, including moving ambulances and resources into the region. 

Triple-zero operators would also try to refer non-urgent cases on to other nearby health services. 

CAH chief executive officer Geoff Iles said the hospital was aware the move would leave no overnight doctors on call in the district between Warrnambool and Geelong. 

“There’s been a lot of thought go into this and that’s one of the factors,” Mr Iles said. 

“I’ve been in the industry for a long time and it was a difficult decision to make.” 

Member for Corangamite Darren Cheeseman has laid the blame with the state government budget cuts, while the Coalition’s candidate for the seat, Sarah Henderson, has targeted the $255,000 withdrawn by the federal government. 

Colac Otway Shire mayor Lyn Russell said political opponents needed to end the squabbling over health funding and move quickly to restore the urgent care unit. 

“They need to get their act together,” Cr Russell said. 

“People won’t look kindly on it if it is used as political football. We want to see a solution that looks after the community.” She said the council was briefed on the decision last Friday.

 s.mccomish@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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