Ambulance response times worst since 2015, as government announces $750m boost

Ambulance response times have blown out to their worst level since 2015 and the state government will spend $759 million to boost ambulance and hospital services to cope with high demand heading into winter.

One-quarter of the time, ambulances are not reaching the most critically ill patients within the target time of 15 minutes. Ambulances are reaching that benchmark only 75.1 per cent of the time, down from about 79 per cent last quarter. It is the worst result since 2015.

Health Minister Martin Foley is speaking about the results on Friday morning. You can watch live below.

Following weeks of pressure from health groups and the state opposition, the government will invest hundreds of millions to help divert people away from emergency rooms and attempt to improve the flow of patients through clogged emergency departments that are experiencing record demand.

The Andrews government hopes the boost will allow the health system to cope with the winter period when demand for health services are expected to increase again.

There were 474,000 emergency department presentations in the first three months of the year, about one per cent above the same quarter last year and the highest number for a third quarter. Health officials expect the figure to rise during winter.

The Royal Children’s Hospital had a 31.5 per cent increase in presentations and Casey Hospital had a 19.9 per cent increase. The large increases are influenced by the very low number of emergency department attendances during last year’s lockdowns.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the funding would help the state “recover faster and ensure our community continues to have access to the world-class care they deserve.”

“The pandemic has had a lasting impact, and states are seeing more ED presentations, more ambulance callouts – and less people seeing their GPs,” Mr Foley said.

Queensland has also experienced a 12 per cent rise in emergency department attendances and other states have experienced similar problems.

The number of 000 calls has increased by five per cent in metropolitan Melbourne and nine per cent in regional Victoria. Patients are presenting with more acute health issues after many of them did not follow health plans and attend screenings during the pandemic.

A key issue is the slow movement of patients through emergency departments, which is causing a shortage of beds and forcing ambulances to queue outside hospitals waiting for beds to free up.

Infection control measures in hospitals – including temperature checks and COVID-19 testing – have slowed the movement of patients. There has also been a rise in the number of births and many more patients with comorbidities and worse health conditions.

The government will spend $266 million to expand triage services to divert people away from emergency rooms. This will include new nurses, boosting secondary triage services and non-emergency patient transfers.

About $205 million will be spent to bolster Ambulance Victoria’s resources through programs like telehealth, while $89 million will be spent to better resource emergency departments to quicken the flow of patients.

The government will also spend $200 million to open new hospital facilities and create new beds.

Queensland has also experienced a 12 per cent rise in emergency department attendances.

Patients’ wait times in emergency rooms blew out significantly, with 70.8 per cent transferred from an ambulance to an emergency room within 40 minutes, down from 77.5 per cent.

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