Three-vehicle crash closes Milton Road, paramedics on scene


Up to three people were being treated by paramedics and Milton Road was blocked after a multi-vehicle crash in Auchenflower on Tuesday morning.

Police advised motorists to avoid Milton Road, which was blocked in both directions, after three vehicles were believed to have crashed about 9am.

A man with chest injuries was being treated by paramedics, while a woman was expected to be taken to hospital.

A child was also believed to be involved in the crash.

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Calls for change as new report finds Victorian paramedics under stress levels akin to a mental disorder


Paramedic Dean Adams was coming home from a 12-hour night shift during which a patient had threatened to murder him when he realised something had to give.

He’d barely had time to use the toilet, let alone eat anything that night, as his crew was sent from job to job — culminating in treating a man who’d assaulted a police officer, and then turned on him.

In his three years since starting as a paramedic, Mr Adams has seen the workload increase dramatically.

“The relentlessness was just unsustainable going forward, and for me that was evidenced by sleeping difficulties … it was impacting my eating patterns,” he said.

He was dreading going to work, especially to back-to-back 12-hour night shifts.

He stopped seeing friends and felt drained.

“I think we all strive to provide the best care to our patients … but there’s times where you’ve been working for 10-12 hours and you haven’t had time to stop and recover … and that’s when it becomes dangerous,” he said.

A new study, led by researchers at Swinburne and RMIT universities and obtained exclusively by the ABC, has found that like Mr Adams, many Ambulance Victoria employees are at breaking point.

More than a third feel burnt out by their work, and 10 per cent are looking to leave the profession in the next year.

Almost one in 10 are exhibiting stress levels comparable to having a severe psychological disorder, while a quarter report being under moderate levels of psychological distress.

In comparison, previous studies have found less than 13 per cent of the general population exhibits similar distress levels.

Report author Peter Holland said the research pointed to a dangerous level of emotional exhaustion in the workforce, far beyond anything he’d seen in his previous studies on nurses in hospitals.

“They’re under very significant levels of stress, to the extent that some of these people need some help themselves in that sense,” Professor Holland said.

The survey of 663 staff — about 17 per cent of on-road Ambulance Victoria employees — was completed in September last year during Melbourne’s second COVID-19 lockdown. 

But Professor Holland and co-author Lara Thynne believe the situation would not have changed since that time because workloads had increased dramatically since the lockdown ended.

“If anything, things have gotten worse,” Dr Thynne said.

She said while being a paramedic was always a high-intensity job, the research found recent trends of missing meal breaks, working overtime, and gruelling night shifts with no rest time were taking their toll.

“The damage is the emotional effects on paramedics outside work. We know paramedics [already] have higher rates of suicide, and higher rates of marriage breakdown,” she said.

Since the COVID-19 lockdown ended, Victoria’s health system has been under strain, with demand for ambulances skyrocketing.

Victoria’s hospital emergency departments are full, which leads to ramping — a situation where paramedics care for a patient in the ambulance outside a hospital until a bed becomes available inside.

This in turn prevents the crew from attending emergencies in the community.

Pair that with an increase in call-outs in recent months, and ambulance wait times are now at their worst levels in six years, according to new quarterly data.

The deadly consequences of this were evident two weeks ago, when 32-year-old Christina Lackmann died after waiting six hours for an ambulance.

It prompted the Victorian government on Friday to announce more than $750 million in the upcoming budget for more paramedics, better systems to deal with non-urgent emergency calls, and better access to beds in emergency departments.

The exact reasons for increased call-outs are not known, but Danny Hill from the Victorian Ambulance Union said his members were seeing more patients with chronic illnesses who had let their treatment go during the pandemic.

He also believes his members are increasingly taking patients who don’t need further care to hospital, because the paramedics fear they won’t be supported by Ambulance Victoria if the patient later suffers an adverse event.

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Paramedics treating patient after quad bike incident



Paramedics are treating a patient with a head injury following a quad bike incident at Burrum River.

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Surge Of Workload For Victorian Emergency Services Peaked At 2,000 Calls

Deficit Of Paramedic Cited

An alert was issued by Ambulance Victoria shortly before 9:00 pm revealing that it was experiencing a surge in demand for ambulances in the metropolitan region.

A staggering number of 2,000 calls were received by the service yesterday where around 1,000 were from people experiencing what is called “an immediate life threat”.

Justin Dunlop, Director of Emergency Management at Ambulance Victoria cited that heat may have been a factor in the high number of emergency calls, even though conditions were not extreme.

In Melbourne’s CBD, the temperature went up to 32 degrees Celsius at around 8:00 pm. There were no thunderstorm asthma warnings.

The Director added, “It was a hot couple of days, that’s for certain, but there was no indication, there were no triggers met in terms of heat health or within the Bureau of Meteorology so it was a bit of one out of the bag.”

Mr Dunlop said there had been a rebound in the number of calls to paramedics as Victoria began to return to normal after coronavirus restrictions. The service assured the most urgent and critically unwell patients were reached in a timely manner, and ambulance services returned to normal after midnight.

Secretary, Danny Hill from Victorian Ambulance Union revealed that last night was one of the busiest nights for the paramedics all year. “There was a massive spike in cases, at one point there were over a hundred cases in the pending category, meaning a call’s been taken and it’s been deemed they need an ambulance,” he said.

He also acknowledged the pressure that the paramedics were feeling due to a very difficult year. Given that there is a shortage of workforce, these paramedics have been working hard right the way through the better part of the year due to the pandemic struck environment.

“They’re just exhausted, emotionally and physically exhausted and fatigued,” he said.

Mr Hill then added that a new system of paramedics should be implemented to mitigate that and cope with the workload because there was no unusual phenomenon, just a skyrocket of workload.

Another statement by Mr Dunlop saw that there were no problems yesterday with the callout system operated by external organization Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA), and a normal number of paramedics were on shift.

He said Ambulance Victoria had taken forward the recruitment of 120 student paramedics earlier this year, and a further 300 students could be called upon during upwelling periods.

Surge in demand for ambulances in Melbourne puts paramedics under pressure

Paramedics were breaking down in tears and working through meal breaks during a “massive spike” in cases last night, the Ambulance Union says.

Ambulance Victoria issued an alert shortly before 9:00pm saying it was experiencing extremely high demand for ambulances in the metropolitan region.

It has not detailed what people sought help for, but that “there were longer wait times than usual for patients not suffering a life-threatening illness”.

“This is a timely reminder to all Victorians to stay on top of their health this summer as the weather warms up and many of us re-emerge from Stage 3 and 4 restrictions,” Ambulance Victoria said in a statement this morning.

The service said the most urgent and critically unwell patients were reached in a timely manner, and ambulance services returned to normal after midnight.

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Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill said last night was one of the busiest nights paramedics have had all year.

“There was a massive spike in cases, at one point there were over a hundred cases in the pending category, meaning a call’s been taken and it’s been deemed they need an ambulance,” he said.

“A lot of it seems to be that a lot of people haven’t been going to see their GP, either they haven’t been able to get in to see them, they haven’t been taking patients, or due to COVID they’ve kept at home.”

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Mr Hill said paramedics were feeling the strain of a difficult year

“We do feel that there is a shortage of paramedics, the paramedics have been working right the way through the better part of the year through the COVID environment, they’ve been wearing full PPE and they’re just exhausted, emotionally and physically exhausted and fatigued,” he said.

“There just needs to be enough paramedics in the system to weather that and cope with that because there’s nothing really special about last night, there was no thunderstorm asthma that we know of, just a really big spike in workload.

“For many of them, they might have to come and do it all over again tonight and I can tell you that’s a very hard thing to do to front up after you’ve had that sort of night.”



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Canberra police, paramedics and mental health clinicians warn emergency PACER program’s future in doubt


Emergency services workers fear a program they established that has kept Canberrans out of emergency departments and mental health wards may end if the ACT Government does not guarantee its funding.

ACT police and paramedics have seen a sudden and massive increase in mental health call outs in recent years, which has contributed to a clogged emergency department.

Internal health documents from last year also revealed four in five patients taken to the ED under the Mental Health Act did not actually require an admission in a mental health unit, according to doctors.

But a new squad known as the Police, Ambulance and Clinician Early Response (PACER) program is helping prevent unnecessary hospital visits, and providing better treatment at home.

PACER teams up a police officer, paramedic and mental health clinician to respond to mental health emergencies as a trio.

PACER has helped police provide better care in mental health emergencies.(ABC News: Jake Evans)

Since it began at the end of last year, more than 80 per cent of people attended by PACER have avoided an admission to hospital.

“For people in need of care, they’re not getting the traditional model of police response, they’re getting three well-rounded and professional cohorts coming together as one,” PACER team leader Sergeant Craig McPherson said.

“Police involvement in what is a mental health crisis, a person’s worst day, is not exactly a great outcome for them — Tasmanian Police recently described it as ‘bad for them, bad for us’.”

Without PACER, ‘health crisis’ left in hands of police

A man in police uniform smiles at the camera, his arms folded.
Sergeant Craig McPherson said police have been bearing the brunt of what is largely a health crisis.(ABC News: Jake Evans)

PACER currently operates one crew from 2:00pm to midnight. Any mental health cases outside that window are attended by on-duty officers and paramedics.

In July the ACT Government proclaimed PACER a “success”, and said Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman and Mental Health Minister Shane Rattenbury had worked together to “make possible” an expansion of the service from four to seven days a week.

But the program’s survival beyond this year is not guaranteed.

“Right now it’s internally funded largely by our agencies,” Sergeant McPherson said.

“We received partial funding from government which was very appreciated, but the future of PACER past the end of the year rests around a business case that’s in front of government.

In statements to the ABC, the responsible ACT Government ministers suggested PACER’s funding uncertainties were a consequence of COVID-19.

Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman said ACT Labor supported the PACER model and, if re-elected at October’s territory election, would work to continue it past this year.

Mental Health Minister and ACT Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury said the Greens would push for the service to be expanded.

“I am committed to permanent funding for the model, and I would like to see it expanded to more than one team,” he said.

Paramedics ‘frustrated’ at lack of options for mental health cases

PACER’s ambulance service coordinator Megan Davis said her staff also wanted the program to continue.

“I know from speaking to paramedics on the frontline, they’re very excited by PACER that the person can be left at home if that’s appropriate,” Ms Davis said.

“In traditional ambulance world we would send an ambulance to a mental health case and if we decided as paramedics they needed some support, assistance or further treatment, the only option to paramedics is to transport to hospital.

A woman holds a laptop and works standing up next to an open car.
Having a clinician alongside calls has improved handovers and shortened wait times when patients do require hospitalisation.(ABC News: Jake Evans)

Jade Nolan, a senior manager for Adult Community Mental Health Services, said alongside a reduction in hospital admissions, PACER had reduced re-presentations by mental health patients to the ED or mental health services.

“In terms of re-presentations, I think we’re looking at about three quarters of people who have contact with PACER are remaining in the community,” Ms Nolan said.

“Having a mental health clinician working as a team with a police officer and a paramedic means that the clinician can provide that mental health assessment and intervention at the time, so you’re getting that specialised assessment.”

That teamwork has also resulted in better handovers when hospital admissions are required, reducing the time officers and paramedics spend waiting on wards.

Sergeant McPherson said the agencies have proven PACER’s value.

“We were asked to prove the concept — I think we have, I think we’ve exceeded what we hoped for,” he said.



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Patient care threatened by ambulance ramping rise at Perth hospitals, paramedics claim


Emergency services are warning authorities about a concerning increase in ambulance ramping in the Perth metropolitan area, with concerns patient care is being compromised.

The practice known as “ramping” occurs when hospital emergency departments are at full capacity, forcing patients to remain in the care of paramedics while they wait for a bed.

Patients are often lined up in hospital waiting areas or corridors.

St John Ambulance WA medical director Paul Bailey said while ambulance and emergency department activity slowed during the initial COVID period, ramping rates were now three times higher than five years ago.

“Both walk-in and ambulance activity dropped into our emergency department so their capacity to accept patients improved, but in the last few weeks really things have pretty much gone back to normal, and we’re now seeing ramping at troubling levels again,” he told Radio 6PR.

Mr Bailey said there had been 1,700 hours of ambulance ramping last month, compared to 500 hours for the same period in 2015.

St John Ambulance says ramping has increased significantly in recent weeks.(ABC News: Natasha Harradine)

He believed part of the problem was that hospitals had reconfigured their way of dealing with patients due to COVID-19 risks.

“To give you an idea of that, last week and the week before we had a period of time in Perth when we only had two spare ambulances unallocated to patients in the whole metro area, and I’m really worried that’s going to lead us into a bad place,” he said.

Mr Bailey said delaying care for urgent cases could have detrimental consequences.

“We know that patients who have delayed commencement of their care in the emergency department do worse than patients who go straight through, so their length of stay increases, their complication rate increases … those first couple of hours you spend in an ED makes a really big difference,” he said.

‘It’s simply not true’: Health Minister

While emergency services were concerned the situation could worsen, the WA Health Minister Roger Cook said he was not worried.

WA Health Minister Roger Cook looks contemplative as he stands listening to Mark McGowan speak.
Roger Cook says the concerns raised are overstated.(ABC News: James Carmody)

“Our ambulance handover rates at the moment are about 21 minutes, a slight improvement on the 22 minutes from last year.

“Our EDs are working well and as I said our ambulance handover rates are doing better than ever, so it’s simply not true to say ambulance ramping is out of control and obviously someone’s not looking at the same numbers we are,” Mr Cook said.



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Sydney news: Extra public transport services added for social distancing, paramedics refuse to bill patients


Here’s what you need to know this morning.

Public transport boost

More than 3,300 extra services have been added to Sydney’s public transport network to temporarily increase the capacity for physical distancing.

Minister for Transport Andrew Constance said extra weekly services would help customers continue to make smart travel choices as they return to work.

“Transport for NSW is being more proactive and adaptable to provide customers with more information and options throughout the day to help flatten the peak travel curve,” Mr Constance said.

Mr Constance said the new extra services would give people even more options to travel outside the peak.

For more coronavirus news try these:

Paramedics stop billing

Paramedics across NSW have begun industrial action against the Government’s proposed pay freeze for the public sector by refusing to bill patients.

Members of the Australian Paramedics Association (APA) began omitting patient billing information from 9:00pm yesterday in a bid to hit the NSW Government’s pocket.

“This is really attacking the wrong end of town … paramedics are just family members, like the rest of the community, and to supress their wages in this manner means that we are unable to go out in the community and spend,” APA president Chris Kastelan said.

“You can’t be ‘essential’ one day and then have your wage be disposable the next.”

Nile plans pay freeze amendment

Nurses feel “demoralised” by the pay freeze, Fred Nile says.(ABC News: Nic MacBean)

NSW Upper House MP Fred Nile says he will attempt to make police officers and nurses exempt from the planned public sector pay freeze when the proposal is debated in Parliament today.

“I’ve had a couple of thousand emails from nurses, they’re very upset and demoralised by what the Government’s doing and I think it’s important to say to them ‘we do care about you and you deserve this rise’,” Mr Nile said.

The Christian Democrat MP is the only crossbench MP to support the Government’s freeze, with One Nation, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and Animal Justice Party all against the proposal.

The State Opposition says it has the numbers in the Upper House to block both the pay freeze and $1,000 bonus offered in lieu of the pay rise.

Artworks snatched from fire victim

Building engulfed in fire
The fire trapped a local artist in his studio above Ebbtide Shopping Centre.(Supplied: NSW Central Coast Incidents)

A man will appear in court today after he allegedly stole artworks belonging to a man who died in a fire at a shopping centre on the Central Coast.

A 50-year-old man who was contracted to clean the fire-affected art studio above The Entrance’s Ebbtide shopping centre is alleged to have stolen 87 artworks valued at around $160,000.

Local artist Patrick Carroll became trapped in his studio when a teenager, who has been charged with manslaughter, allegedly deliberately lit the fire in October last year.

The artworks have since been returned to Mr Carroll’s family.



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