Ian Hunt has worked for Victoria’s ambulance service for more than 30 years and has managed a number of major emergency incidents, but he has never faced anything quite like the COVID-19 pandemic during his career.
The Charles Sturt University Master of Emergency Management student is currently an Area Manager in eastern Melbourne for Ambulance Victoria.
He is usually responsible for managing the Senior Team Managers of ambulance stations in four local government areas, but is now playing a key role in managing the ambulance service’s response to COVID-19.
“I have been involved in a number of major incidents as a Health Commander responsible for leading and coordinating the emergency response for the ambulance service,” Ian said.
“So when COVID-19 first hit, I was taken offline as an Area Manager and placed in Ambulance Victoria’s COVID-19 response team.
“The team was led by our Executive Director of Clinical Operations and one of our decisions was to move our whole operation for the handover of patients outside the hospital environment.”
Based on the work of Ian and his colleagues, now when paramedics take patients to major hospitals in Victoria, the entire operation is completed outside the hospital and the paramedics do not enter the building where possible.
“In collaboration with the major hospitals, we have put in infrastructure so the operation happens outside the hospital”, Ian said.
“This includes portable showers and toilets, areas for paramedics to take off their PPE and complete their paperwork, and a handover zone where the patient leaves the care of the paramedic.
“Our paramedics can now ensure they are fully operational and ready for the next case without fear of exposing themselves, or their next patient, to the coronavirus.
“We also have a team manager at each location to support paramedics from the moment they load their patient, until they clear the hospital after handover.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic was developing, Ian and his colleagues on the COVID-19 response team had to act quickly and managed the first rollout of this new operation in about a week and a half.
“The operation was developed under the guidance of the COVID-19 response team, with the exceptional support of the Ambulance Victoria property management team and the frontline managers,” Ian said.
“It was the idea of a fellow Area Manager and the service ran with it.
“The COVID-19 response team needs to be very agile; this virus writes its own script, and we need to stay in front of it as much as we can.”
The virus has definitely changed Ian’s role and the operations of Ambulance Victoria.
“I estimate COVID-19 is now taking up 70 to 85 per cent of our management time”, he said.
“We are operating in what we would call the new normal. It has been pretty heavy.”
Ian shared that what he has learned from his study at Charles Sturt has really helped him with his work at Ambulance Victoria.
“It has been really handy with the work I have been doing,” he said.
“Studying risk management in the emergency management context in particular contributed really positively to my approach to being on the COVID-19 response team.
“By studying different organisations and undertaking research, it widens your sphere of knowledge around the work you do, and I can take this knowledge back into my practice as an emergency manager.”
Speaking of why he decided to pursue a Master of Emergency Management at Charles Sturt, Ian said it circles back to his youth.
“As a teenager, I did work experience at an ambulance service in Year 11 and I then had a strong desire to be an ambulance officer,” he said.
“I’ve now been with the ambulance service for 31 years and I have a real passion for emergency management.
“I decided to complete the Master’s course to give me a more strategic approach as a qualified manager in emergency management.”