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Deadly paramedic delays again in spotlight

Ambulance Victoria
Authorities are probing the death of an 82-year old in Victoria, who waited 40 mins for an ambulance. Photo: AAP
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Investigations are underway into the death of a Phillip Island man who died after waiting 40 minutes for an ambulance.

82-year old Stewart Grant suffered breathing difficulties at 12.30pm on January 29, but paramedics were not dispatched immediately despite his family calling triple-zero.

The emergency dispatcher had assessed the initial call as appropriate for a call-back from a nurse or paramedic, but when that was made eight minutes later, Mr Grant’s condition had worsened and an ambulance was sent.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the case was tragic, and told reporters on Thursday that there were issues with how the call was prioritised by the triple-zero call service ESTA.

“As I understand, the issue wasn’t so much the dispatch of the ambulance. The paramedics were there, other volunteers in the nearby community were there, once the call was distributed,” he said.

State opposition leader Matthew Guy said the case was horrifying and demanded an explanation from the government.

“If it’s the call-out and dispatch system, then it’s the government’s to manage… It’s just not good enough to say it’s someone else’s fault. How the hell can this happen in Victoria in 2022?” he asked.

Premier Daniel Andrews sent his condolences and said the coroner would examine the incident.

“This pandemic has made the job of our ambos really tough, they’re all working as hard as they can and any time that a patient dies I know that that’s carried by our paramedics, they feel it very heavily,” he told reporters.

Ambulance Victoria has also sent its sincere condolences to the Grant family and told AAP it has undertaken a review of the case.

ESTA’s call-taking service is under scrutiny from several angles, with the Inspector-General for Emergency Management Tony Pearce looking at the agency, the coroner considering an inquiry into deaths linked to ESTA delays, and an independent review led by former police commissioner Graham Ashton.

Mr Grant’s case is not the only recent death in Victoria following a long wait for paramedics.

In October, father of three Nick Panagiotopoulos died after waiting 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at his home in Preston, in Melbourne’s north.

In the days after his death, the chief executive of ESTA Marty Smyth resigned.

Victorian paramedics experienced their busiest quarter on record in the last three months of 2021.

The data shows ambulances were called to 91,397 code one cases during that period, a 16 per cent increase on the same time in 2020.

Paramedics responded to two thirds of those cases within the average response time target of 15 minutes.

– AAP