Victorian woman forced into treatment for anaphylaxis as triple-0 call goes unanswered

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Almost a month ago, Diana Schumacher had an unexpected anaphylactic reaction after eating a piece of fish.

The registered nurse with almost 50 years of experience, Ms Schumacher, knew what to do as soon as she felt symptoms.

“I realized I was having an anaphylactic reaction, so the first thing I did was dial triple-0.” Ms Schumacher said.

But no one ever answered his call.

It had been over 15 years since Ms Schumacher had had an anaphylactic attack and she did not have an EpiPen at home with her.

She had an anaphylaxis kit in her car, which she usually used at work.

“I just got it because I’m a vaccination nurse, and it’s part of the kit I carry. It’s lucky I haven’t cleaned the car yet.”

While the phone was still ringing, Ms. Schumacher gave herself her first dose of adrenaline.

Diana Schumacher says she’s lucky to have an anaphylaxis kit in her car.(ABC News: Dana Morse)

After almost 15 minutes with no response from the triple-0, she hung up and decided to take care of herself with the materials in her kit.

However, Ms Schumacher said her face and eyes were so swollen that she had to lift her own eyelids to monitor her heart rate and blood pressure.

After an hour, four injections of adrenaline and an antihistamine later, she started to feel better.

“I didn’t call back the triple-0. I knew what was going on and they were absolutely overwhelmed and luckily I knew how to take care of myself,” she said.

Ms Schumacher said the incident prompted her to think about a plan for when an ambulance might not be available.

“It can be quite scary because we are made to believe that the triple-0 is still there, that it’s an immediate response, and the ambos will be there when we need them,” she said.

“I think there is a lot of personal responsibility now that people need to anticipate.”

Ambos union says there aren’t enough operators to take calls

A portrait of Danny Hill standing outside.
Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill said low staffing levels at ESTA are to blame for the delays.(ABC News: Bridget Rollason)

Ms Schumacher’s case is not an isolated incident, with the ambulance union regularly reporting significant delays in emergency calls to which the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) responds.

The union says calls go unanswered for up to 20 minutes at a time, and it has been reported that a nursing home called police for help with cardiac arrest rather than waiting for an ambulance .

Union Secretary Danny Hill said ESTA’s low membership was to blame.

“Unfortunately, we just don’t have enough room in the system to be able to deal with these peaks in demand,” Hill said.

In a statement, an ESTA spokesperson said the increased demand for emergency services had resulted in longer wait times and that any delay in responding to emergency calls was “unacceptable. “.

“Our triple-0 operators care deeply about the service they provide and the community they serve. We are always upset if anyone has to wait,” the spokesperson said.

“Due to the level of demand last night, the call response time for several events was outside of ESTA’s target range for ambulance emergency response.

Annual reports reveal benchmark failures at all levels

The Victoria Ambulance and ESTA annual reports were tabled in Parliament yesterday, two of 214 reports released on the government’s annual ‘dump day’, when dozens of ministries and authorities tabled their annual reports .

Victoria Ambulance’s annual report shows that only 77 percent of Code 1 emergencies were dealt with within the 15-minute benchmark.

In the deadliest incidents, known as Priority 0, only 81% received a response within the 13-minute benchmark.

An ambulance parked at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
Patients experience delays even after their ambulance arrives at the hospital.(ABC News: Michael Barnett)

However, as the report showed, once the ambulances arrived at the hospitals, the navigation still did not run smoothly.

Annual reports from major Melbourne hospitals show that many have failed to meet the 90% threshold for transferring ambulance patients within 40 minutes.

  • At the Austin hospital, only 52% of patients were transferred within 40 minutes.
  • At Monash Medical Center, it was 57.7% of patients.
  • At Sunshine Hospital in West Melbourne, 60% of patients were transferred to this target, and at the nearby Footscray Hospital it was 62%.
  • In St Vincent, 70 percent of patients were transferred within 40 minutes.

Several hospitals also failed to meet the goal of having no patient staying more than 24 hours in the emergency department.

Martin Foley speaks at a press conference.
Health Minister Martin Foley told Parliament he looked forward to the health system returning to normal after the pandemic.(PAA: Erik Anderson)

At Sunshine Hospital, it was 390 patients who were in the emergency room over 24 hours, at Monash Medical Center, 58 patients – more than one per week, and at Werribee Mercy Hospital, it was 47.

ESTA dispatchers also missed key targets, responding only to 86% of priority 0 and 1 calls within two and a half minutes.

The delays have been attributed to a 15% increase in calls to emergency dispatchers in the past fiscal year due to the pandemic.

In Question Time yesterday, Victoria’s Health Minister Martin Foley said he looked forward to the return of Victoria’s health care system to a more normal state.

“I can’t wait for this global pandemic to be over… to return to this space of partnering with Ambulance Victoria, with our paramedics, to bring us back to this world-class standard.” Mr Foley told Parliament.

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