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Improving Midland Link road safety

CONSTITUENCY QUESTION

September 15, 2021

My question is to the Minister for Road Safety, and relates to the Midland Link that connects Mansfield with Benalla.

I’m informed that a 60-kilometre section of this road is carrying approximately 3000 vehicles per day, 750 of them trucks.

Some trucks can use up to five and a half metres of the available carriageway, which is only six metres wide in parts. The desired solution is to widen the road by one metre on both sides.

Some improvements have been undertaken, such as to the shoulders and installation of guardrails, and 25 per cent of the road (length) has been widened. This leaves 75pc still needing attention, so my question is: what is the timeline for carrying out the remainder of this work to improve the safety of this section of road?

Revamping ambulance ramping

Media statement

Tania Maxwell MP has again asked Health Minister Martin Foley about state government action to improve ambulance response times and overcome ramping at hospital emergency departments.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria last week told Parliament she did “not expect to be happily surprised” by the latest ambulance response time data for the April-June quarter.

It shows average response times[i] to code 1 call-outs, compared with a year ago, increased two minutes in Alpine, Campaspe and Mitchell shires, 2:41 minutes in Hepburn , one minute in Benalla, 3:21 minutes in Loddon, and 4:21 minutes in Mansfield, while there were improvements in Gannawarra and Indigo – all areas under the spotlight in the past year.

Ms Maxwell said practice of ambulance ramping, which occurs when hospital emergency departments are extremely busy and instruct paramedics to keep a patient on board until given the go-ahead to deliver them, was also affecting patient care.

“The July report of a patient with a spinal injury who was in a corridor at Sunshine Hospital for 14 hours is simply despairing,” she said.

“This patient was ramped outside the hospital for hours and then waited and waited for a bed. The Victorian Ambulance Union reports that patients are regularly waiting for 12 hours in ambulances outside hospitals or being treated by paramedics in corridors while they wait.

“I have spoken numerous times in this Parliament about the pressure on ambulance services in northern Victoria, including a very sad, recent case in my electorate where an aged-care resident waited 90 minutes for an ambulance, a delay which was attributed directly to hospital ramping.

“These bottlenecks are placing enormous strain on our health workforce.

“Speaking with healthcare workers, they tell me of the challenges of staff shortages and trying to find ways to discharge more patients safely to free up beds.

“They do an incredible job in an already pressured environment.

“The Australian Medical Association warned in July that our hospital systems cannot cope with a flu epidemic, let alone a COVID epidemic, in what was described as an ‘acute public health disaster’.

“Yet the point of Victoria’s first lockdown early last year was to prepare our health system to cope, and 18 months later we seem to be in no better position.”

Ms Maxwell said ramping was not isolated to state hospitals or Victoria.

“The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners has called for a whole-health-system approach across both state and federal governments, including utilising general practice and community health,” she said.

“Other states, such as Tasmania, are rolling out policy to take pressure off emergency departments with extended care centres through general practices, extending hours, and weekend operation.

“I expect such a prospect would be welcome in many regional centres also, if you could indeed resource them, given the wait time to see a GP.

“I thank our healthcare workers, and I encourage the government to share with our communities what work they are doing in Victoria and with other levels of government to address these concerns.”


[i] https://www.ambulance.vic.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/2020-21-Q4-Ambulance-Response-Quarter-4-FY2020-21.pdf

Ambulances response needs rapid fix

Adjournment

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.

Government needs to fix ambulance response times

Letter to the editor

Many readers will be aware of recent reports about more distressing delays in ambulance arrivals at emergency incidents in some Victorian communities.

I’ve advocated repeatedly for more ambulance resources in the rural and regional areas that I represent.

I’m also continuing to push for a concerted effort by the state government, Department of Health and Ambulance Victoria to fix bottlenecks caused by practices such as ‘ramping’.

This occurs when hospital emergency departments are extremely busy and instruct paramedics to keep a patient on board until given the go-ahead to deliver them.

I’m prompted by the Heart Foundation’s Heart Week (May 3-9) to reiterate the clear need for a sustainable, permanent fix.

In the past year, ambulance response times have been under the spotlight – especially in Indigo, Loddon, Mansfield, Mitchell and Hepburn shires.

I’ve been working with these councils and taking their communities’ very real concerns to Parliament and the government so the disturbing delays that some people experience will become a thing of the past.

Earlier this year I welcomed the government’s additional $14.8 commitment to support regional ambulance services, but recent incidents show we’re not yet at the point where we can be confident that a fast, reliable and effective ambulance service will be available in emergency situations in our communities.

I’ve also been talking with Ambulance Victoria about ways we can each contribute to a solution.

Preventative health is one of them. Heart and brain health are things we can manage with good diet, exercise and regular check-ups, but heart attack and stroke still make up a substantial number of Ambulance Victoria call-outs.

The GoodSAM (Smartphone Activated Medic) app, where someone with basic first aid knowledge can be alerted to help at an incident nearby until an ambulance arrives, and the placement of defibrillators in communities, are also vital assets.

But proper resourcing that enables paramedics to attend rapidly to emergencies remains the best solution, and I’ll keep pressing the government to make sure that our Northern Victorian communities’ expectations can be met.

Tania Maxwell MP
Member for Northern Victoria, Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party
Wangaratta

Justice Party seeks government help to speed housing fix in bushfire communities

Tania Maxwell MP will seek Victorian government support to alleviate the challenges and financial costs still faced by people who lost homes to last year’s Black Summer bushfires when the Legislative Council meets in Bright on April 29.

The Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party Member for Northern Victoria said the regional sitting had been convened to acknowledge the fires’ impact in the North East and the serious business and tourism knock-ons from these disasters in communities that she represents, including Alpine, Towong, Indigo, Mansfield, Wangaratta and Wodonga.

“The Victorian government has worked hard to help people back on their feet, but we must be able to expedite rebuilding and recovery,” Ms Maxwell said.

“This includes finding ways to accommodate tradespeople so they can get the job done and families can move into their new homes.

“The fires had an enormous physical impact across our communities, especially in Towong, Alpine and East Gippsland local government areas.

“But mental trauma and stress brought on by these disasters continue for many families.

“Bushfire Recovery Victoria data shows 458 homes were destroyed or damaged in Victoria and almost 18 months later it’s estimated that fewer than three per cent of the people displaced have moved back into permanent housing.

“The motion I’ll put to the sitting encourages us as parliamentarians to recognise the devastation and distress suffered by people in our communities whose homes were destroyed or damaged, who have been living in temporary accommodation and who are going through the arduous process of rebuilding.

“At a practical level, I want Parliament to be keenly aware of the challenges delaying and compromising the re-housing effort.

“Often there are significant financial gaps between insurance pay-outs and the costs of building in a bushfire-prone area, particularly the spending needed so new buildings comply with Victoria’s Bushfire Attack Level ratings system.

“There’s also a severe shortage of readily available accommodation so builders, plumbers, electricians and other essential tradies can deliver what they’re engaged to do in the communities where this help is needed.”

Ms Maxwell said her motion would ask the government to consider urgent changes to policies and regulations to alleviate fundamental, ongoing problems.

“As an elected representative of communities that have been so seriously affected, it’s my job to make sure all parliamentarians understand the personal, economic and community impacts, and for the government to find ways to deliver swift and effective solutions,” she said.

Ms Maxwell said estimates of the fires’ economic impact in eastern Victoria showed:

  • $114-199 million decline across all industries in Alpine, Towong and East Gippsland
  • $79-181m decline across all industries in Indigo, Mansfield, Wangaratta, Wellington and Wodonga local government areas
  • $330-350m in tourism losses in bushfire-affected regions between December 2019 and March 2020.
  • 10,000 livestock lost
  • 742 properties required clean-up