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Why Victoria’s ambulance service is so stretched

3AW Breakfast
Article image for Why Victoria’s ambulance service is so stretched

Melburnians calling an ambulance were again left waiting overnight.

With emergency departments backed up and unable to accept patients, 39 ambulances were reportedly ramped at hospitals last night, triggering a ‘code orange’ alert.

But Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill says he’d “bet money the number was far higher than 39”.

The offload delays left only eight per cent of metropolitan ambulances available to respond to call outs.

In one hour alone, 69 urgent triple-0 calls for help were left sitting in a ‘pending’ queue waiting for an ambulance.

Mr Hill says Ambulance Victoria has experienced its three busiest months ever in the last three months.

“But it’s not an increase in heart attacks, strokes or car accidents, it’s an increased reliance on Triple-0 and on emergency departments as well for quite low acuity cases,” he told 3AW Breakfast.

“A lot of it is people, they might be genuinely unwell … but they haven’t gone to the effort of trying to get a GP appointment, trying to talk to nurse on call, seeing a 24 hour pharmacist and looking at alternative pathways, it’s just ‘Bang, I need to get an ambulance’.”

Deferral of medical appointments during the pandemic has exacerbated the demand on the ambulance service.

“A lot of these cases are what we call deferred care … prior to the pandemic you might have seen a doctor once a month for a chronic health condition, but during the pandemic a lot of those people have dropped off on those appointments, and of course they’re getting into a situation where they’re calling Triple-0. That’s a lot of the work that’s coming through,” Mr Hill said.

And staff burnout is also contributing to the problems.

“The burnout is high among our staff. They’re just completely fried, and … Ambulance Victoria relies so much on people working overtime shifts to help bolster the service,” Mr Hill said.

Press PLAY below to hear why Ambulance Victoria is so stretched

3AW Breakfast