WACHS will not discuss ambo load

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
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The WA Country Health Service and St John Ambulance are refusing to discuss the effects of a huge jump in call-outs for Margaret River’s volunteer ambos.

As reported last week, doctors were seriously concerned about issues at Margaret River Hospital — key among them, a big increase in the workload on St John volunteers called to transfer patients to Busselton and Bunbury.

St John figures detailed 97 patient transfers from Margaret River Hospital in January and February compared with 55 in the same period last year.

The figures gave weight to concerns raised last week by senior doctor Shaun O’Rouke, who called for greater investment and support for services in Margaret River rather than relying on transfers.

“The ambos are running themselves ragged,” Dr O’Rourke said.

“We need a big industrial conveyer system all of the way up.”

Meanwhile, ambulance call-outs from the Margaret River sub-centre increased 41 per cent during the same time.

Volunteers who asked not to be identified said they were handling the workload well. However, some transfers occurred at short notice outside standard hours and did not seem to be linked to urgent cases.

Dr O’Rourke said the hospital was short on beds because it was housing elderly people waiting for places in aged-care homes.

He said patients were being turned away — or transferred — because there was no space for them.

WACHS denied those claims.

The Government health service did not respond to questions from the Times about the over-reliance on volunteers, employment of more paid paramedics, the cost to taxpayers for hospital transfers, and efficiencies around those arrangements.

“Questions pertaining to ambulance services are best directed to St John Ambulance noting WACHS only engages patient transport services when appropriate to do so,” a spokeswoman said.

A St John spokesperson said the terms of the agreement were commercial in confidence.

“All transfers were undertaken by volunteers,” St John said.

“Funding relating to those transfers directly supports the Margaret River sub-centre.”

St John is a registered charity with an exclusive State Government agreement to provide country ambulance services across WA.

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