PARAMEDICS in Melbourne's west have pleaded for more resources and better working conditions with response times increasing dramatically.
This comes after a horrific collision on the Western Highway near Bacchus Marsh in the early hours of April 1, in which a man was incorrectly pronounced dead by paramedics.
Hawthorn man Daniel Huf's Porsche and a four-wheel drive collided just before 2am, with the sports car flipping and left perched on railing half way down a hill.
Mr Huf, 30, was hanging upside down in the vehicle. He was pronounced dead by paramedics but almost two hours later, after he had been removed from the wreckage, a Bacchus Marsh SES worker detected a weak pulse and the paramedics were called back.
He was transported to the Royal Melbourne Hospital where he is now in a serious but stable condition.
Ambulance Employees Australia (AEA) state secretary Steve McGhie said rapid growth on Melbourne's urban fringes meant more cases were taking ambulances further out geographically, meaning there often wasn't one close by to respond to a call.
"In this case, there unfortunately was not an ambulance at Bacchus Marsh or Melton to respond," he said.
Mr McGhie said a Melbourne-bound Daylesford ambulance was first on the scene, but only one paramedic was aboard with a first-aid trained volunteer. At 2.07am, Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance (MICA) paramedics from Laverton North took up the case and arrived at 2.28am.
MICA paramedics have higher clinical skills and can perform more advanced medical procedures. "When all arrived, the car was precariously on its roof and it was extremely difficult to reach the patient. It was not physically possible for them to put a heart monitor on," Mr McGhie said. At 3.46am, the MICA team cleared the case, but at 4am they were called back to the scene. Mr McGhie said the MICA paramedics were devastated.
Ambulance Victoria figures obtained by the AEA under freedom of information show response times in growth areas are lagging.
The benchmark for code 1 responses is 15 minutes in 90per cent of incidents, but wait times in the west have increased to more than 19 minutes for ambulances coming from Altona (19.35) . For Bacchus Marsh it's 23.11; then Brimbank (19.31), Darley (19.36), Laverton (19.19), Melton (21.35) and Point Cook (19.16). Code 1s are life-threatening incidents like car crashes, strokes, heart attacks and head injuries.
A veteran paramedic from the outer west, who did not want to be named, said he was often called in to Footscray and inner areas.
"Resourcing isn't coming close to meeting the demand in outer areas. They used to be known as quiet branches; it's not the case any more."
He said he often worked 14-hour shifts without a break. "There's no incentive for paramedics to stay in the job after five years; we lose a lot to other states. In South Australia, they are paid up to $20,000 more than us.
"[The government] only put on an extra 200-300 ambulances a year. That just keeps us treading water when you take into account the numbers leaving."
Mr Huf's family praised hospital staff and the MICA crew for the work they did under demanding circumstances.
Ambulance Victoria chief executive Greg Sassella said a full review would be completed next week.