COVID-19

Union chief’s startling claim after latest code red crisis

Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria secretary Brett Adie said the pressure on the state’s ambulance network means he would think about jumping in the car to drive a patient to hospital if he was confronted with an emergency.The comments from the secretary of the state’s oldest union for paramedics follow Victoria’s embattled ­ambulance service declaring its seventh code red of the year in the early hours of Sunday.“If I was within driving distance to the hospital that would certainly be a consideration for me if I could get that person to the hospital,” Mr Adie told 3AW.“It’s very sad that people are having to make these decisions. These are crisis points for some of these people when they get to the point of calling triple zero.”Victoria’s embattled ­ambulance service declared its seventh code red of the year in the early hours of Sunday, prompting the opposition to accuse the state government of “abysmal” management. The crisis protocol was ­declared for metropolitan Melbourne for about 90 minutes at 2am to deal with big demand. Under a code red, people are encouraged to not call ­ambulances and make their own way to hospital instead. Ambulance Victoria said it had a shortage of staff, with about 170 of its paramedics on furlough.There was also a spike in calls about midnight, placing greater pressure on services.Staff were ­recalled, managers returned to duty to manage hospital transfers, and a rapid processing of ­patients was then possible.Acting Premier Jacinta Allan defended the government’s handling of the ambulance service, arguing it had invested heavily in new paramedics and resources. Victorian Ambulance Union general secretary Danny Hill explains what is a code red, the circumstances it can be used and what it means for you.She said every health system in Australia was under significant pressure due to the pandemic and a difficult flu season.Ms Allan thanked Ambulance Victoria for its swift ­response to the crisis “which I am told came as a consequence of unprecedented demand on the system”.“By deploying their red ­escalation levels, they were able to very quickly and swiftly minimise the amount of time that code red was in place,” she said.Opposition Leader Matthew Guy claimed the state government’s mismanagement of the healthcare system was to blame.“What we have (on Saturday) night again shows this government’s management of our health service has been abysmal,” Mr Guy said.“They’ve had two years in the world’s longest lockdowns to prepare us, they’ve clearly done no work or prepared nothing.”Mr Guy warned the state was “most probably facing more code reds because the Labor government hasn’t done the work to fix the ambulance and health services”. He said the responsibility was “squarely with Jacinta Allan and Daniel Andrews”.For its part, Ambulance Victoria said it was doing all it could to support paramedics despite a recent Swinburne University and RMIT survey finding 16 per cent of its workforce said they intended to look for new employment in the coming year. “We don’t ever want anyone to come to work and not feel supported and not want to be here,” Ambulance Victoria’s Lindsay Mackay said.“We are really trying to support staff as much as we can at this time.”However, Victorian Ambulance Union assistant secretary Olga Bartasek said inadequate working conditions were pushing staff to breaking point.She said paramedics were often working 10 to 12-hour shifts.“If they can’t work in good conditions they will consider other work,” Ms Bartasek said.“You can’t keep going without a meal break or finishing the shift on time.”

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