Lone Colac ambulance risks patients' lives: union

LIVES in Colac and district will be put at risk if only one ambulance is left to respond to emergencies overnight, health unions warn.

The Ambulance Employees Association (AEA) and the Australian Nurses Federation (ANF) have both warned that the decision to leave all emergencies in Colac to a single ambulance crew each night could result in patients dying while waiting for paramedics. Plans by Colac Area Health (CAH) to close its urgent care unit overnight will mean all emergency cases will be transferred to Geelong — leaving Colac without an ambulance for up to three hours. 

The public will get updates next Tuesday from CAH, Ambulance Victoria and Victoria Police at an information session at the Colac Otway Performing Arts and Cultural Centre at 7pm. 

But the Victorian head of the AEA, which represents the paramedics, told The Standard ambulance crews in Colac feared critical delays.

“Unless additional resources are put in place, lives will be put at risk,” AEA secretary Steve McGhie said. 

“There’s only one ambulance in Colac at that time. The next closest ambulance could come from Geelong or Camperdown, who knows? It would take the best part of an hour to respond to Colac.”

Mr McGhie said crews in Geelong were already overburdened and unlikely to respond to incidents in Colac. He said the threat remained that crews in Camperdown and Lorne could be busy if needed. 

“They need to at least put another night shift on in Colac,” he said. 

“The ideal situation is that Colac doesn’t close its accident and emergency department. 

“It’s a real problem and it’s putting the public at risk.”

Ambulance Victoria was tight-lipped this week when asked how it would respond to the new requirements, but hinted at extra resources being moved into the district.

The ANF also weighed in to the debate, this week sharing the unease of paramedics. 

ANF state secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said it was up to the Victorian government to fix the funding shortfall at Colac Hospital. 

“If the one ambulance in Colac is already on a transfer, a critically ill person would be expected to wait for an ambulance from Geelong or even Warrnambool,” Ms Fitzpatrick said. 

She said Colac Hospital had also closed six beds this week. 

Member for Corangamite Darren Cheeseman yesterday used his Twitter account to warn that Warrnambool ambulances could be drawn to Colac.

 But Mr McGhie said it was unlikely Warrnambool would send paramedics an hour-and-a-half to emergencies in the Colac area.

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