Victorian paramedics’ safety will no longer be put at greater risk on emergency visits with a new system that automatically warns them whether a known positive case of Covid-19 lives at the home they are visiting.
The system will also provide significant benefits for the broader Victorian community, avoiding large-scale furloughing of much-needed ambulance staff that occurs if they are unknowingly exposed to Covid-19.
The warning system went live on 8 September 2021, more than 18 months after the pandemic began and 17 months after the system was requested by Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria (AEAV).
“The AEAV welcomes the belated introduction of this warning system but it’s disappointing that it has taken this long to implement,” AEAV Secretary Brett Adie said today.
“A paramedic’s job is stressful enough. Then add to that the fact they have worried for the last 18 months that they were potentially walking into a premises that the Dept of Health knew had a Covid-19 positive patient.
“Thanks to the efforts of AEAV members, the belated introduction of this system gives paramedics across Victoria greater safety, and vital information about the Covid-19 status of patients they have never had before.”
The warning system will use information obtained from the Department of Health of known positive patients and the premises they occupy, and will alert the paramedics when they are dispatched to attend the premises.
The system sends a pager message or adds information to the Mobile Data Terminal (MDT) with an alert stating ‘Safety – Known COVID19 Patients Present’ when crew are dispatched to a case.
The warning will allow ambulance officers to make judgments including whether to use full PPE.
The warning becomes particularly important in cases where paramedics are treating unresponsive patients, there are language issues, intellectual disabilities, the caller is not with the patient or when the scene is an emergency and the caller does not think to provide, or does not know, information about Covid-19.
AV flags it will drop Covid-19 questions
As part of the introduction of the new system, AV Executive Director of Operational Communications, Anthony Carlyon, has indicated once AV is confident the system is robust that call-takers will no longer ask if anyone at the premises is “isolating because of a COVID test, close contact or attendance at an exposure site?”
“This question is still imperative for the safety of paramedics,” Mr Adie said.
“The known presence of a COVID positive patient does not address the risk of a potential exposure to paramedics if the patient is awaiting outcomes of a COVID test.
“The AEAV implores AV to continue questioning about COVID testing and attendance at exposure sites. “We cannot afford to have paramedics furloughed when the system is under considerable pressure.
Paramedic fatigue is very real at the moment and as we head into another period of COVID uncertainty every effort should be made to provide them with as much information as possible so they can protect themselves, their colleagues and their families.”
Ambulance Employees Australia Victoria (AEAV) is a section of the United Workers Union.
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