Hope restored for shire response times

By Rhys Williams

Indigo Shire Council mayor, Bernard Gaffney, has walked away from his meeting with the Ambulance Services Minister feeling hopeful that response times in the shire will be mended by the Victorian Government.

Cr Gaffney met with the Ambulance Services Minister, Jenny Mikakos, at Parliament House in Melbourne last Wednesday to discuss the shire’s fraught response times, which statistics have shown to be the worst in the state.

“I thought the meeting was very positive, and I’m hopeful for a successful outcome,” Cr Gaffney told The Free Press.

“The minister advised us that she wanted to see equity outcomes for all Victorians and that she would look into the issues raised on behalf of our community.

“She told us that there’s been an extra $300 million put into the current 2019/2020 budget for ambulance services and that she was very prepared to take a closer look into the allocations of that funding.”

“She also said she would have discussions with Ambulance Victoria, look into the issues we’ve raised and get back to us when she’s made that assessment.”

The meeting was first secured back in July after Cr Gaffney was able to bring the issue to the attention of the minister with the help of Northern Victoria MP Tanya Maxwell, who facilitated the hour long forum on Wednesday.

Indigo Shire has regularly owned the worst response times for code one incidents in the state. 

In the third quarter of 2018/19, only 24.5 per cent of code one incidents in Indigo Shire were responded to in less than 15 minutes, alarmingly lower than the state average of 84.2 per cent.  

The shire currently only has an ambulance station at Beechworth and volunteer community emergency response teams at Chiltern and Yackandandah which respond to triple-0 calls.

“I told the minister that at the very minimum we needed a new ambulance station that needed to be fully equipped and resourced. She asked where I thought the location of a new station should be,” Cr Gaffney said.

“There’s been discussion around Chiltern being the location, because it’s the centre of the shire.”

Cr Gaffney said that he was hopeful that a positive outcome can come to fruition, and used his time at parliament house to get other MP’s on side.

“After that meeting we went and met Jaclyn Symes, Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development and ask that she advocate on the shire’s behalf at the Cabinet table.

“I’ll certainly be contacting Tanya Maxwell, Jaclyn Symes and the minister’s office in a couple of weeks to see how things are progressing.”