By Michael Doran
Healesville locals may know how to find their way around the maze of bollards and dead ends in the Bluegum Drive area but unfortunately the Ambulance Victoria GPS does not.
Healesville resident, Jessica Manley, was recently shocked to find this out when she called an emergency ambulance for her 2 year-old daughter, Isabella.
“Isabella started having convulsions and she was not coming out of them so we rang triple-zero. She was struggling to breathe and after five minutes started turning blue, which got really scary,” Jessica said.
“This was not her first episode so we knew we didn’t have a lot time before we would have to start CPR. We needed that ambulance here so much but it seemed to be taking too long,” she said.
Fortunately Isabella was stabilised when the crew arrived and was transported to Maroondah Hospital for further treatment. It was while riding in the ambulance that Jessica learnt about the issue with the GPS.
“One of the paramedics said the GPS sent them down a dead end street so they had to find a new way to get to us. I was totally shocked that in this day and age they were delayed because of the GPS not being right,” she said.
Jessica’s eight month old son Thomas has a heart condition and her elderly mother lives nearby so she is worried about ambulance delays from the inaccurate GPS system.
Some years ago a series of bollards were installed to reduce cars taking short cuts through the residential area, bounded by Badger Creek Road.
“I got in touch with the Yarra Ranges council but was told the bollards had been there for 15 years so the ambulance should know all about them. It was like, it’s not our problem so try somewhere else,” Jessica said.
“It made me frustrated; it shouldn’t be that an ambulance is delayed in an emergency just because of sticks blocking the road.”
Other residents in the area share the frustration and one commented that “it happens with any GPS system, be it taxis, delivery drivers and even the pizza man goes down the dead end.”
An Ambulance Victoria spokesperson said “Our vehicles are fitted with GPS satellite navigation units that are regularly updated.”
“Paramedics often have local knowledge which can be useful to overcome traffic problems and other incidents that GPS cannot accommodate.”
The spokesperson also said “that in cases such as Jessica’s the service can work with the resident to ensure crews are aware of access difficulties in advance.”
Ambulance Victoria is arranging for the Healesville station manager to talk to Jessica about the incident and put a system in place to ensure this issue of blocked-off roads does not impact on response times again.
How the broader issue of access by all emergency services into this densely populated area is addressed remains to be seen.
Jessica’s situation should be a catalyst for the bollards to be modified, removed or noted on emergency vehicle GPS systems now, not after a tragedy strikes.