The smartphone app helping Victoria’s off-duty paramedics save lives

ABC News – 29th May 2018 – By Stephanie Chalkley-Rhoden

PHOTO: Keith Young said he had no idea that Darren, a paramedic, lived nearby. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

Keith Young knows that in matters of life or death, survival can come down to seconds.

While preparing dinner in the kitchen for the final time before a planned holiday with his wife in Queensland, he blacked out.

Mr Young, from Narre Warren South in Melbourne’s outer east, had just suffered from cardiac arrest.

While his frantic family called triple-0 and started CPR, a neighbour’s phone vibrated.

Darren, a paramedic, had just got home from work and was in his family toy room when he received the alert.

“I got on my pushbike and grabbed a pair of gloves out of my first aid kit in the garage and rode up the street to Keith’s house, where his family were already [giving] CPR to Keith on the floor,” he said.

“So I just assisted them and took over with more CPR until the ambulance arrived.”

The phone alert that prompted Darren to act came from the GoodSAM app.

It sends an alert to registered off-duty first responders — like paramedics, nurses, doctors and surf lifesavers — to notify them that someone nearby has suffered from cardiac arrest, after a call is made to triple-0.

PHOTO: The app was trialled with paramedics but is now available to other first responders. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

The three closest users are given the address, in the hope they can provide assistance until an ambulance arrives.

The app is being rolled out by Victoria’s emergency service agencies following a four-month trial involving more than 1,100 paramedics across the state.

The agencies, including Ambulance Victoria and the CFA, are now looking to increase the pool of registered professionals.

Those taking part are volunteers.

‘He was already turning grey’

Mr Young was carving meat when everything went dark.

His wife, Catherine, was in the other room when she heard a thud.

PHOTO: Keith Young was cooking dinner for his wife Catherine when he collapsed. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

“Keith was on the floor, totally non-responsive, and he was already turning grey,” Catherine said.

“And I just screamed to the children, who are adults, to call triple-0 straight away.”

The family began CPR with the guidance of the operator before Darren arrived at their doorstop. They were shocked, but relieved.

“I thought, Oh my god, who is this in my house? And just his whole calm manner — he took over, he instructed us — his professionalism brought me down to a calmer level,” she said.

Mr Young remembers none of it.

“But I know from putting the story together after the fact … that the relief Darren gave to my family, I just can’t thank him enough,” he said.

PHOTO: Ambulance Victoria CEO Tony Walker said the app’s users were all trained professionals (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

The ambulance arrived four minutes after Darren, who acknowledged his role but credited Mr Young’s survival to his quick-thinking family.

Ambulance Victoria CEO Tony Walker said the GoodSAM app was designed for incidents like cardiac arrest or choking, when the first few minutes were critical.

“We know there’s a 10 per cent reduction in survival for cardiac arrest for every minute you don’t have CPR or defibrillation,” he said.

“We’re getting to cases more quickly … but to get an ambulance to someone in those first two minutes of cardiac arrest is almost impossible, so we rely on the community to be able to provide that response for us.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the trial had been a great success.

“Rolling this out more broadly, I think, is going to do wonderful things to save lives and to change lives,” he said.

Mr Young has since recovered and says he’s now approaching life with “a big smile”.

“I get up and have breakfast and then look at the day,” he said.


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Ambulance Performance and Policy Consultative Committee


In January 2015, the Ambulance Performance and Policy Consultative Committee was established. The Hon Jill Hennessy MP, Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulances Services chairs the Committee, bringing paramedics and a range of key organisations together with Ambulance Victoria to improve Ambulance Victoria’s service performance and culture.

The committee last week released an interim report that included emergency response times for 2013-14, which were withheld by the previous government. The report found that in recent years almost 60 per cent of all emergency calls were classified as code one, but paramedics found on arrival that such a response was not required. It also revealed paramedics reported considerable fatigue and low morale, and close to 45 per cent of ambulance officers said last year they would not recommend the service as a good place to work.

The report recommends greater collaboration between health services for emergency patient care, improving community awareness about when to call triple-0 and better training to improve call-taking and dispatch services.

The table below shows the response times for Ambulance Victoria’s St Arnaud, Maryborough, Avoca and Inglewood Branches.


Response time percentile – What does it mean?

A response time percentile is a measure that tells us what percentage of patients experienced a response time at or below a certain time. For example, a 50th percentile (also known as the median) of 20 minutes means that 50 per cent of patients experience a response time of 20 minutes or less. Similarly a 90th percentile of 60 minutes means that 90 per cent of patients experience a response time of 60 minutes or less.

In other words, for 90% of us in Dunolly, it may take up to 30 minutes 47 seconds for a Code 1 Maryborough Ambulance to reach us and up to 60 minutes and 6 seconds if the emergency is less acute (Code 2).

When we look at Bealiba, for 90% of us in Bealiba the response time percentile worsens when you consider that a ambulance may arrive from St Arnaud or Avoca instead. It is simply impossible, due to the distance, for a Code 1 Ambulance to get to Bealiba within 20 minutes from any of the current Ambulance Stations in Maryborough, Avoca, St Arnaud or Inglewood.

In a life threatening or time critical Medical Emergency please call: 000 or 112 from your mobile for an Ambulance. Then call: 0438 580 426 as soon as possible for FREE Volunteer Pre-ambulance Emergency Care from Emergency Medical Response (if available) while waiting for your Ambulance to arrive in areas surrounding Bealiba, Dunolly, Moliagul, Tarnagulla, Emu, Archdale and Natte Yallock in Central Goldfields Victoria.

A call to ESTA on 000 may take about 4 minutes to complete and a page to be sent out to the responding unit. The Emergency Medical Response response time within Bealiba is as low as 4 minutes and Dunolly just 14 minutes if we are available to respond. You can also talk to a Emergency Medical Response Vehicle On the Road on UHF12 as we do monitor the local Dunolly Talk Channel when out and about.

The Committee’s full interim report that details the challenges facing ambulance services in Victoria and the reform opportunities for the future can be found at:

Ambulance Victoria Response times in Bealiba

Sometimes we are asked, “Why are ambulance response times so long where Emergency Medical Response operates?”, well it isn’t because Paramedics are not doing their jobs. Nor is it because Rural Ambulance Victoria isn’t doing their job. They do a great job, in difficult circumstances with the limited resources available to rural towns with small populations.

It simply comes down to the location of Dunolly, Dunluce, Mount Hooghly, Archdale Junction, Archdale, Dalyenong, Bealiba, Emu, Cochranes Creek, Goldsborough, Inkerman, Painswick, Moliagul, Murphys Creek, Tarnagulla and Waanyarra has in relation to the current Ambulance Stations. These areas are all located in a dead zone between all the current major Ambulance Stations.
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Hoax Drug Overdose Oct 29, 2013 – EMR Community Callout

EMR received a Hoax Call @ 11:50pm (23:50hrs) on Tuesday night,October 29 from a female stating that her friend had taken drugs and wasn’t breathing properly and had a weak pulse. She said she doesn’t believe in taking drugs but her friend had and wasn’t well. She said she had called 000 and been told that the ambulance would take an hour to reach them. I asked their location and was told near the front of the Moliagul Hotel. I asked whether or not this was on the main road and she answered “yes”.

There was No Caller ID so I also asked for a contact number and was given 0467 xxx xxx by the caller. The caller’s voice sounded panicked, so I said I would be there in ten minutes. The call duration was 2 min 18 seconds.

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Single Vehicle MVA February 27, 2013 – EMR Community Callout

At 1:42 on February 27, 2013, I was called by my son to a car verses a tree accident (Single Vehicle MVA) near home. On arrival I found my 14 year old daughter, Jasmine, having difficulty in breathing in the back seat along with her school friend and my son walking around the vehicle in a very panicked state.

After extricating Jasmine from the vehicle and alerting Ambulance Victoria on the condition of the three injured casualties and requesting Police, I treated both girls for shock, wrapping the girls in thermal blankets and administrated high flow oxygen to Jasmine.

At the worst point Jasmine’s pulse dropped to 69bpm and her SpO2 to 64 under 15ltrs/min oxygen. Her pupils were fully dilated and became unresponsive on more than six occasions. It took a lot of screaming and pinching to get her back each time she fell back into an unresponsive stare.

Lying on her back with her knees raised and keeping completely still assisted in applying pressure and controlling her internal bleeding and she was already improving by the time three AV Ambulances and the HEMS3 (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) arrived 40 minutes later.
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