CODE RED: What was behind the ‘massive surge’ in ambulance demand
A “massive surge” in demand for ambulances on Monday night led Ambulance Victoria to declare a Code Red — the same emergency level as during the thunderstorm asthma event in 2016.
While critically ill Code 1 Victorians received timely care, those in non-life threatening conditions experienced long wait times and were provided over-the-phone medical care.
Director of Operational Triage Services at Ambulance Victoria, Lindsay Mackay, said there were about 2000 ambulance call-outs, compared to the usual daily figure of 1400 to 1600.
But a “sudden influx” in the evening was what prompted the need for a Code Red.
“We’d had kind of three days of hot weather so we think that may have contributed to it but we really weren’t able to identify anything specific,” she told Heidi Murphy, filling in for Tom Elliott.
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General secretary of the Victorian Ambulance Union, Danny Hill, said, at the busiest point, there were up to 130 call-outs deemed requiring an ambulance but not able to have one sent to them.
Mr Hill says the Code Red was “unprecedented in that it’s not tied to anything other than an unusual surge in workload”.
Ambulance Victoria took the unusual step of issuing a tweet asking those whose life was not in danger to contact Nurse on Call.
BREAKING | Urgent message from Ambulance Victoria, experiencing “extremely high” demand in Melbourne right now. https://t.co/tuA9wJGW9D
— 3AW Melbourne (@3AW693) December 14, 2020
Mr Hill says he believes COVID-19 drove the surge in call-outs.
“During the COVID environment people probably either haven’t been able to see their GP or haven’t been going to see their GP and the flow on effect is that things hit crisis point and people end up calling an ambulance,” he told Stephen Quartermain and Tony Leonard, filling in for Ross and Russel.
“You see that play out with massive amounts of cases.”
The Rumour File was told Victoria’s ambulance service is suffering a serious staff shortage.
Mr Hill confirmed there is a critical shortage of paramedics, and “they’re relying on people working massive amount of overtime”.
“When you have a big event like last night combined with paramedics who are too fatigued … it hits crisis point.”
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