Ambulances response needs rapid fix


Ms MAXWELL (Northern Victoria) – Tuesday, May 25, 2021 (19:59):

My adjournment is for the Minister for Ambulance Services, and the action I seek is for the minister to detail how – specifically for my electorate – he will address the immediate and urgent issues relating to ambulance response times and mitigate lengthy delays.

Last week I was contacted by an aged-care facility in my region. One of their residents waited two hours for an ambulance after a fall and later died in hospital. The paramedics did a wonderful job when they got there, but they were ramped and no other units were available to respond. This is not the only story; it is just the latest.

The issues in our ambulance system are regularly reported and frustrating for my electorate, including lengthy response times, staffing shortages and fatigue, hospital bypassing and ramping. It is distressing for patients, their families and the healthcare responders who are working each day in this environment. According to the latest performance data released by Ambulance Victoria, response times that were already poor in my vast electorate became worse. Alpine shire went from 49 per cent of call-outs meeting benchmark to 40 per cent, and it was 34.1 per cent in Buloke, 41 per cent in Gannawarra, 32 .4 per cent in Mansfield and 27.6 per cent in Indigo shire. It goes on and on.

Paramedics and other health professionals in our regional areas work exceptionally hard to deliver care in their communities. This is not a slight in any way on them, because they do an incredible job. We know COVID-19 has had an impact, with restrictions delaying people seeking medical care and PPE requirements adding another element of delay, but health workers tell me the issues are deeper than this, such as attracting staff to regional areas, having resources to fill shifts and manage fatigue rates and addressing the bottlenecks that leave paramedics ramped and emergency departments under pressure. Law reforms such as to public drunkenness may place further demands on emergency departments.

Prevention and early intervention work in community health are critical to reduce demand at the acute end. I am working proactively with Ambulance Victoria to promote the GoodSAM app and other community-based responses, and I congratulate them on this work.

I still believe we need substantially more paramedic teams on each shift in the pool for northern Victoria. Paramedics tell me that themselves. The overwhelming feedback that I get is there are not enough resources to meet the demands on the system.

Last week’s budget delivers more than $759 million for change, and constituents in my electorate need to know the specifics of what will be delivered for them, when and what difference this will make.