Ambulance Victoria Executive Director Clinical Operations Anthony Carlyon said demand for ambulance services remained at record levels for the first quarter of 2022/23 due to the continued impacts of COVID-19 and the flu.
“July to September was our busiest first quarter on record, and the second busiest quarter ever,” Mr Carlyon said.
“Together with the previous quarter, this was by far the busiest and most challenging winter ever. Our paramedics and first responders worked tirelessly to keep delivering world class care.
“This quarter also marked one year since the Medium Acuity Transport Service (MATS) crews dedicated to non-urgent calls hit the road, freeing up more ambulances for the most critical emergencies.”
Ambulances were called to 94,592 Code 1 cases from July to September. That’s a drop of 3,335 Code 1 cases from the previous quarter, but a massive 17.6 per cent or 14,132 more ‘lights and sirens’ cases compared to this time last year.
Between July and September, paramedics responded to 64.3 per cent of Code 1 cases within the state-wide average target of 15 minutes, improving from 64 per cent in the previous quarter.
During the quarter, an average of 132 staff were furloughed everyday across the state due to COVID-19, with a peak of 305 staff furloughed on 23 July and dropping to 31 staff by the end of September.
Mr Carlyon said before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ambulance Victoria recorded its best ever response performance of 83.9 per cent of Code 1 cases responded to within 15 minutes. We’ve since continued to respond to unprecedented demand.
“We’re working hard to relieve pressure across the health system with more paramedics on the road, more resources at 14 hospitals state-wide to help offload patients faster and our MATS crews providing high quality care to less-urgent cases,” Mr Carlyon said.
“In their first year of operation, MATS crews attended a total of 28,144 cases state-wide. This includes 21,456 cases in metropolitan Melbourne and 6,688 cases in regional Victoria.
“That is a lot of time saved for other paramedic crews to respond to the most critically ill patients, so it’s good to see these dedicated crews making a real difference, responding to about 78 cases a day.”
MATS crews started in Melbourne on 20 September last year and in regional Victoria on 15 November. A further eight additional MATS crews were added to help meet record demand this year.
Mr Carlyon said to help meet record demand, Ambulance Victoria recruited 700 paramedics in 2021 – its single largest annual recruitment ever.
“Our record recruiting continues in 2022, with 567 new recruits already joining our ranks so far this year, which includes 227 more paramedics across regional Victoria,” Mr Carlyon said.
“Meanwhile, the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED) continues to help us avoid unnecessary trips to our busy hospitals and treat thousands of patients safely in their own homes.”
From July to September, 7,690 people were referred by Ambulance Victoria crews to the VVED with 76 per cent not requiring transport to hospital.
Mr Carlyon said we remain very busy, attending 1800 to 2000 cases a day, and continue to ask the community to help us by saving Triple Zero (000) for emergencies.
“From July to September 39,627 callers to Triple Zero (000) did not need an emergency ambulance and were instead connected by paramedics and nurses in our Secondary Triage team to more appropriate care,” Mr Carlyon said.
“That results in 500 or more cases every day being safely matched to services that better suit their needs while also avoiding emergency dispatch. While ambulances are always provided to patients when required, about one in five calls to Triple Zero (000) do not need an emergency ambulance response.”