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$109M Ambo plan: Labor to bring in two-paramedic crews

By Kimberley Price

A RE-ELECTED Andrews government will deliver better care for people in Bendigo and central Victoria – with Rochester ambulance station finally having two fully trained paramedics in their ambulances under a $109 million package pledge.

After fierce local campaigning for two-paramedic crews instead of one, it appears under a re-elected Andrews government Rochester’s ambulance woes may be solved.

The government has indicated it will move towards two-officer crewing for all stations. According to the Ambulance Union, the government has promised, if re-elected, it would sit down with the union within its first 100 days to determine how the remaining stations would be upgraded.

‘‘It’s fantastic news,’’ Ambulance Victoria assistant secretary Olga Bartasek said.

‘‘We didn’t get everything we wanted. But 15 of the 48 branches will be converted to two-officer stations.

‘‘If re-elected, in the first 100 days we will be a part of a table discussion of consultation about how to transition all other stations into two-officer stations.’’

To boost care for local families, Labor says it will fund more paramedics in Bendigo, with Rochester becoming a dual officer station as part of the $109m investment in ambulance services across regional Victoria.

“Four years ago I made a promise to fix the ambulance crisis and we have. But there’s more to do, and only Labor can be trusted to back our paramedics,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy added: “Victorians can’t afford to go back to the days where patients were left dying because an ambulance couldn’t get there in time. Only Labor will give people confidence that in an emergency, they’ll get the life-saving care they need”.

Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh, who delivered the Rochester petition for more paramedics to parliament early last month, is cautious of the government’s promise.

“It’s ironic that at the 11th hour before the election Daniel Andrews has finally actually realised where Rochester is – the question to be asked is: can we trust him?’’ he said.

‘‘We are still waiting on his government to solve the Random House issue and the Rochester Sports Museum lease of the railway station, farm theft is still rife across the district... and we’ve got the ridiculous wire ropes along the Northern Highway to remind us of his legacy.

‘‘If you also add in the list of broken promises across the state, I am a long way from being convinced that anything Daniel Andrews promises for country Victoria will become a reality.”

A former member of the Ambulance Auxiliary, Christine Wright, has been a major activist for boosting Rochester’s ambulance staffing levels.

‘‘This is a huge step in the right direction,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s a wonderful outcome for the community, as we deserve to receive a higher level of care.

‘‘This has been a hard fight but one that needs to be won.

‘‘Rural branches are vital and we expect the same service as metropolitan areas, and we certainly do not want paramedics working alone.

‘‘Peter Walsh has done a terrific job in supporting our cause but unfortunately it is beyond him.

‘‘It is disappointing the Liberal-Nationals party has not supported our cause with any funding to date.

‘‘At this stage our situation will only be supported if the Andrew’s government gets re-elected.’’