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Fears delays at MFB medical emergencies could cost lives

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21 Nov 2011
Melbourne firefighters are being delayed at medical emergencies they attend and as the number of EMR calls continues to rise the Metropolitan Fire Brigade fears lost minutes could result in a death.

Since 2000, MFB crews have been dispatched to Emergency Medical Response (EMR) calls at the same time as Ambulance Victoria to attend cardiac arrests and non-breathing patients.

In some areas of Melbourne MFB is now responding to more medical emergencies than to building fires.

However, too often fire crews are being delayed reaching the call by people who think they have been misdirected. In one recent case, a woman who had called for an ambulance tried to send a fire truck away thinking the firefighters were looking for a different emergency.

MFB has had a successful decade delivering EMR services in partnership with Ambulance Victoria, with more than 150 lives saved. But firefighters still say people are often surprised to see them, and in some instances this causes delays that could be the difference between life and death as many people are unaware that firefighters are trained in EMR. If a fire truck arrives first, the crew immediately initiates medical assistance and continues until Ambulance Victoria paramedics arrive to take over.

Thanks to specialist training at Monash University, all firefighters are able to provide basic life support, give CPR and use the defibrillators carried on all fire trucks.

MFB CEO Nick Easy said the growth in EMR was proof of the value of the scheme.

“We’ve helped to save many lives through this service, but it is still a surprise for a lot of people when the fire truck arrives,” he said.

“We provide a vital component in ensuring patient survival and the close work with Ambulance Victoria is an important example of how emergency services can complement each other’s roles in preserving life.”

A study of the 2010-2011 call logs by municipalities shows a jump of around 15 per cent in the rate of EMR calls on the previous 12 months.

In 2010-2011, MFB responded to more than 4,500 EMR calls, including 3190 attended on-scene.

Mr Easy said members of the public needed to be aware that a fire truck may come to their aid in the instance of medical emergencies.

“We need to raise public awareness about the MFB EMR service so that they are not confused when a fire truck arrives for a medical emergency. Any time lost managing that confusion could be a life and death difference,” he said.
When a person is experiencing cardiac arrest or is not breathing, the promptness of the medical response is paramount to survival. Cardiac arrest survivability diminishes by 10 per cent for every minute that defibrillation is delayed.

Mr Easy said the importance of EMR was indisputable and MFB was now assisting the Country Fire Authority in conducting its own trial of an EMR program which is also being conducted in partnership with Ambulance Victoria.

“EMR enhances the capabilities of emergency services and saves lives and we are pleased to be able to assist CFA in their trial program,” he said.

 
Below are the EMR calls attended to, by Local Government Area.

 

2009/10

2010/11

+ or -

Banyule City Council

79

140

77%

Bayside City Council

110

114

4%

Boroondara City Council

97

126

30%

Brimbank City Council

238

294

24%

Darebin City Council

143

209

46%

Glen Eira City Council

141

137

-3%

Hobsons Bay City Council

90

102

13%

Hume City Council

106

116

9%

Kingston City Council

75

72

-4%

Manningham City Council

62

77

24%

Maribyrnong City Council

120

121

1%

Maroondah City Council

86

115

34%

Melbourne City Council

160

219

37%

Melton Shire Council

1

 

-100%

Monash City Council

138

199

44%

Moonee Valley City Council

102

154

51%

Moreland City Council

181

205

13%

Port Phillip City Council

128

165

29%

Stonnington City Council

107

123

15%

Whitehorse City Council

153

195

27%

Whittlesea City Council

90

119

32%

Wyndham City Council

11

12

9%

Yarra City Council

160

168

5%

Yarra Ranges Shire Council

10

11

10%

 

 

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