This story is from Hayley, a Paramedic Community Support Coordinator (PCSC) working in rural Victoria. Hayley speaks about the support they provide - particularly to First Responders - in responding to the needs of the communities they serve. PCSCs play an important role in working with the community to ensure it receives the best of care from Ambulance Victoria (AV). Like most health professionals working in rural and remote areas, Hayley emphasises the need to work collaboratively with communities in understanding and addressing their health-care needs.
As a PCSC we work in and support rural communities in Victoria. We do this when needed and on an ongoing basis and work with AV First Responders to ensure that they are fully trained, accredited and equipped to respond to any emergency in their community. The primary role of a PCSC is to improve health outcomes in rural areas and enhance the emergency response capability within these communities.
A typical day may include attending local community hospitals and health care centres. With patient consent, we are able to discuss with staff the clients who may be at risk and how we are able to assist those who have been recently discharged back into their home environment. We are also able to provide education sessions and assist staff who may like to address pre-hospital topics at training sessions.
We regularly deliver approved education programs to our First Responder teams. We collectively refer to our volunteers as First Responders – they include our Ambulance Community Officers (ACOs) and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs). AV’s volunteers enable a more timely response to medical emergencies in rural areas, with early intervention and support for patients, while awaiting the arrival of an ambulance.
First Responders are dispatched at the same time as an ambulance to a Triple Zero (000) call and work alongside career paramedics to deliver treatment to patients. Due to their location and proximity to the local community they serve, First Responders will most likely arrive prior to our professional paramedic crews. First Responders attend traffic accidents, respiratory and cardiac cases and other incidents requiring emergency care. The difference between CERTs and ACOs is that ACOs are also able to transport patients to hospital
Several rural and remote communities in the Wimmera/Mallee region have experienced a decrease in population over the last five years. AV is continually working hard on recruiting First Responders for local communities statewide. With increased numbers of First Responders, AV is able to provide communities with the resilience to respond and treat patients in these remote communities. AV recruits First Responders from local community members who are interested in serving their local community.
There are approximately 30,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in Australia annually with 6,400 of these occurring in Victoria. AV has made it a priority to highlight to our communities the importance of having access to an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). AEDs are generally located in readily available public places and it’s important that the community is educated in the benefits of having access to an AED and how to use one effectively. This is done by liaising with community groups, the local Country Fire Authority (CFA) and local police.
The community also receives funding from various sources, grants and groups for the purchase of AEDs. Information about the location of all registered publicly accessible AEDs is made available through an online registry, helping build community awareness and understanding on where local AEDs can be found. By registering the location of an AED in the local area, a Triple Zero (000) call-taker will be able to advise the caller as to the exact location of device if it is required in a cardiac arrest case. AED owners can register their devices with Ambulance Victoria at ambulance.vic.gov.au/register
In conjunction with this, the introduction of the GoodSAM app to Victoria in 2018 means we now have a larger number of people in small communities available to respond to a patient in cardiac arrest - therefore increasing patient access to life-saving care, and improving patient health outcomes in rural and remote communities.
If we continue to gain a better understanding of community needs, we will be able to assist in the continuous improvement of the services we provide. We will also be able to continually create and support a best care experience not only for patients but for the community as a whole.
I personally love working in small rural communities. The small communities come together and take on any challenges they are faced with. Country people are simply the best!