Ambulance privatisation costs lives

Issue 

Ambulance privatisation costs lives

By Sean Healy

MELBOURNE — The impact of the Kennett state government's cuts to ambulance services and privatisation of the dispatch service has been felt here in recent weeks.

On June 19, a non-emergency ambulance was requested for an 82-year-old woman who has liver and bowel cancer. Though her doctor specified that the ambulance should arrive within two hours, the ambulance did not arrive until five hours later. The mistake was later attributed to errors at the dispatch centre, which is in the process of being sold off.

On the same day, a quadriplegic man had to wait three and a half hours for an ambulance after a contractor who initially responded did not have the proper medical equipment.

One day later, a six-year-old girl died of cardio-respiratory arrest after waiting 12 minutes for an emergency ambulance to get through traffic. Because of the Kennett government's closure of the South Melbourne ambulance station, the emergency crew had to come from the more distant Emerald Hill station. Ambulance Employees Association assistance secretary Rod Morris said that response time from South Melbourne would have been three or four minutes.