Maxwell welcomes emergency action budget

Media statement

May 3, 2022

Victorian Budget 2022-23

Tania Maxwell MP has welcomed the state government’s $457 million budget commitment towards improving ambulance response times.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria said she had pushed successive emergency services ministers since 2019 to fix performance problems that can be life-threatening in regional Victoria.

The government today announced spending of $333m to recruit another 400 call-takers and despatchers to the Emergency Services Telecommunication Authority and $124m to recruit and train another 90 paramedics, improve ambulance fleet management and staff rostering, and reduce bottlenecks at hospital emergency departments.

“I’ve been raising ambulance service issues consistently with the government across the past three years,” Ms Maxwell said.

“I’ve brought to ministers’ and parliament’s attention many times the challenges my communities face with Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority call-handling, ambulance emergency response times, hospital ramping and how community paramedics and first-responder services could be supported to reduce the strains on our health system.

“But the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath seem only to have made things worse.

“When every second counts, the latest Ambulance Victoria performance data shows Northern Victorians had to wait 50 seconds longer on average in the three months to the end of March than they did for an ambulance to arrive at a code one call-out in the previous quarter.

“Across 27 local government areas in my electorate, people wait on average 20 minutes 16 seconds for an ambulance called to an emergency, almost two minutes more than they did a year ago.

“And in Indigo in the North East, one of our smallest shires by population and area, the latest data shows the average emergency response time has blown out three minutes in the past quarter, to 24:51 minutes, and more than 2:12 minutes in the past year.

“At the same time, there’s been good news for Mansfield residents, where code one call-out average response times have improved 2:18 minutes in the past quarter and 4:24 minutes in the past year.

“But in so many areas, like Towong (31:08 minutes), Yarriambiack (25:27), Buloke (27:23), Loddon (26.20), Hepburn (20:20), Murrindindi (24:43) and Strathbogie (24:00) the wait is still way too long.

“So, I’ll be asking the government for detailed assurances about the benefits my communities can expect from the extra funding announced in today’s budget after Parliament resumes next week.”

Ms Maxwell said hospital ramping – where patients wait on-board in hospital emergency ambulance bays for medical attention – was still critical last week with reports of 30 ambulances ramped at emergency departments and delays at 12 major hospitals of up to seven hours.

“The additional budget money directed at reducing emergency department bottlenecks, more resourcing for emergency call and despatching staff and $698m for the ‘Better at Home’ health program is welcome, but is it enough?” she said.

“Regional hospitals have been at code yellow alert levels for months and the strain on staff is really biting.

“I’ve also recently requested a briefing from the Minister for Emergency Services about the recommendations from the ESTA review made by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton and, while I am yet to hear back, I look forward to this discussion taking place as a priority.”