Patient Dies as Paramedic Shortage Takes Toll on Victoria’s Ambulance Service

By Henry Jom
Henry Jom
Henry Jom
December 20, 2021 Updated: December 20, 2021

A Victorian patient who went into cardiac arrest has died after waiting nearly 40 minutes for specialist paramedics.

This comes amid a report by The Herald Sun that found up to a third of Melbourne’s population was without specialist MICA (Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance) paramedics on Dec. 17 due to a shortage of ambulance staff. Much of Melbourne’s inner west also experienced the same shortage over Dec. 17 and Dec. 18.

“We just don’t have enough MICA at the moment to provide the sort of service that the community expect,” Victorian Ambulance union general secretary Danny Hill told 3AW on Dec. 20.

In an email to The Epoch Times, a spokesperson for Ambulance Victoria confirmed that a person “who was having difficulty breathing” called Triple Zero (000) at 9:23 p.m on Dec. 15.

First paramedics immediately responded to the call but could not enter the property and called for fire services to assist.

“Then, after gaining access, paramedics called for MICA assistance at 9:58 p.m. for a patient in cardiac arrest. The nearest MICA crew was cleared from another case,” the spokesperson said.

The Herald Sun reported that MICA paramedics were not dispatched until 10:05 p.m.

Hill told 3AW that paramedics were just 900 metres away from the cardiac arrest patient but could not make it in time as they were attending to a patient with back pain.

“It’s, unfortunately, a common occurrence that we see happen where MICA paramedics are not available because they are attending to low acuity cases,” Hill said.

MICA paramedics are usually left for time-critical cases such as cardiac arrests, severe asthma with a blocked airway, and difficult births, but staff shortages have shifted these specialist paramedics onto lower priority cases.

Ambulance Victoria also told The Epoch Times that reports in other media groups that Ambulance Victoria had been forced to close the Altona branch were incorrect and that just a single MICA shift is unable to be backfilled in early January.

The spokesperson also confirmed that a staff shortage occurred in Warrnambool on Dec. 12 due to several staff being unwell.

“This was rectified within one hour and did not impact service,” the spokesperson said.

When asked why there is such a shortfall, Hill said Ambulance Victoria had not kept up with recruitment as both population and workload continue to grow.

“It’s not just MICA, it’s education, it’s communications, it’s the other support services, but really are really MICA are probably most critical,” Hill said.

In October, Hill warned that paramedic and ambulance staff were under significant stress and burnout as statewide response times dropped, The Herald Sun reported. Between April and June, 73.1 percent of life-threatening cases had an ambulance arrive within the 15-minute target, a decrease from 75.1 percent.

The spokesperson for Ambulance Victoria has also urged Victorians to save Triple Zero (000) for emergencies and to consider other avenues for less urgent health needs such as their GP, pharmacist or Nurse-On-Call (1300 60 60 24).

The spokesperson said Ambulance Victoria recently made a series of changes to recruitment and training requirements, providing improved access for Advanced Life Support (ALS) paramedics wanting to upskill to MICA.

“We are also in the process of recruiting additional Intensive Care Paramedics,” the spokesperson said.

Henry Jom