Paramedics left to eat lunch as woman lay dying
Paramedics left to eat lunch as woman lay dying

Ambulance Victoria will investigate why a Sunbury ambulance crew remained on a lunch break instead of responding to what turned out to be a fatal grass fire.

Maria Mascaro, 77, was found by CFA officers in her burnt out paddock at Diggers Rest on Wednesday.

The closest crew was at Sunbury, just ten minutes away, but ambulance dispatchers sent the Ambulance Victoria helicopter and a MICA paramedic unit to treat Ms Mascaro, who had suffered critical burns.

The Sunbury crew was notified of the incident ten minutes after the original emergency call because dispatchers did not want to disrupt their meal break.

The elderly woman was airlifted to The Alfred Hospital, but later died of her injuries.

Ambulance Employees Australia's Steve McGhie said: "There was an ambulance crew in Sunbury on a meal break that could have been disturbed and sent to this case."

Ambulance Victoria confirmed it is investigating the incident, and is reviewing recordings of the emergency call.

"If the communication centre felt it couldn't disturb the Sunbury crew, then there is a resources issue because we should have had closer ambulances to this particular incident," Mr McGhie added.

Ambulance Victoria general manager of regional services Tony Walker said based on the information received from the original call the case was classified a grade one, which means it is not serious enough to interrupt a crew amid a meal break.

He said emergency services were told the woman was 'conscious and breathing'.

He said the Sunbury crew was on standby for life-threatening situations during its meal-break.

Mr Walker told Fairfax Radio: "On that basis, based on our dispatch grid, we dispatched the nearest ambulance that was not protected for priority zero cases, which was MICA 13 at that time."

Mr Walker admitted the ambulance service is constantly balancing the needs of staff against members of the community.

Neighbours say Ms Mascaro was the innocent victim of a terrible tragedy.

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