Member for Euroa Annabelle Cleeland believes more should be done by the State Government to reduce ambulance response times across the state. ​

By Max Davies

Ambulance response times across Victoria have continued to increase for a third consecutive quarter as demand for ambulance services reached record levels late last year.

Performance data for the second quarter of 2022-23 shows ambulances were called to a record 100,234 code one ‘lights and sirens’ cases across the state, marking the first time ever that paramedics attended more than 100,000 seriously ill people in a three-month period.

In the Mitchell Shire and Macedon Ranges Shire, demand for code one cases and ambulance response times have both increased, however variations in ambulance response times were typical for more sparsely populated areas.

Ambulance Victoria executive director of clinical operation Anthony Carlyon said the service was still feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to place a massive strain on the entire health system, with last October to December being the busiest quarter in Ambulance Victoria’s history,” he said.

“We are working hard alongside health services to relieve pressure in the system and increase availability of ambulances for emergencies with 239 new paramedics hitting the road across regional Victoria in 2022.”

Mitchell Shire saw an 18.3 per cent increase in code one cases, while demand in the Macedon Ranges Shire increased by 23.3 per cent.

In the City of Whittlesea, 3602 code one cases were attended to, making it the fourth busiest area in Victoria.

“In the face of this record growth in demand and the impacts of COVID-19 on our lives, our dedicated paramedics continue to do an amazing job delivering world-class care to our patients,” Mr Carlyon said.

Typical trends in ambulance performance for more densely populated areas such as cities and suburbs show less variation in response times, while areas in rural Victoria where towns are smaller and distances are further often experience longer times for ambulances to reach a case.

During October to December, the average response time for a code one case in the Mitchell Shire increased by one minute and 43 seconds, with only 50.1 per cent of ambulances arriving within the target time of 15 minutes.

Member for Euroa Annabelle Cleeland, who is also the shadow parliamentary secretary for health, said more needed to be done to improve Victoria’s ambulance system.

“We have the most expensive ambulance service in the nation but the worst outcomes,” she said.

“To be waiting nearly 20 minutes for an ambulance in the Mitchell Shire is completely unacceptable.

“People in our region should have the confidence to know that when they call triple zero, the phone will be picked up and the ambulance will be there on time.”

Ms Cleeland placed the blame on the State Government and called for greater action.

“Underinvestment and continual failures in the triple zero system have left our region in a shocking position,” she said.

“The government’s record is years of neglect, reports warning of these outcomes sitting unread on desks and Victorians unnecessarily losing their lives.”

For less urgent cases in regional Victoria, the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department, VVED, is in use to help avoid unnecessary trips to emergency departments that are already under pressure.

Ambulance Victoria is also working with stakeholders across the state’s health system to ensure patients receive the most appropriate response for their needs and improve ambulance availability.