AMBULANCE Victoria has doubled the capacity of its triple zero (000) call triage service to free up emergency ambulances, so the sickest patients get the critical care they need faster, as demand from COVID-19 continues to rise.
Barwon south-west regional director, Tim Maywald said the latest performance data for the first quarter of 2021/22 shows the entire health system is under significant pressure and increasing demand.
In the Southern Grampians, paramedics attended 58.7 per cent of Code 1 patients within 15 minutes – compared with 62.6 per cent for the same period a year earlier, with the average response time being 18.02 minutes.
Response times were faster in the major population centre of Hamilton, with ambulances reaching 84.5 per cent of Code 1 patients within 15 minutes, with an average response time of 11 minutes and 52 seconds.
“Here in Barwon south-west, we are dealing with an extraordinary workload, which is also being experienced by crews right across the state,” Mr Maywald said.
“We continue working closely with hospitals in the region to free up ambulances, getting them back out on the road as quickly as possible.”
Across Victoria, more than 35,000 callers to 000 between July and September did not need an emergency ambulance and were instead connected with paramedics and nurses in our Secondary Triage Service for more appropriate care pathways to meet their needs.
“We’ve expanded our Secondary Triage Service with an additional 97 paramedics and nurses (57 full time employed) – effectively doubling the size of the referral service for less-urgent triple zero calls,” Mr Maywald said.
“This vital service frees up ambulances for the sickest patients by connecting patients who do not need an emergency ambulance with alternative care.
“Our Secondary Triage Service is currently managing as many as 1000 cases a day – which are the service’s busiest days ever.
“That results in 500 or more cases every day that are being matched to services that better suit their needs while also avoiding emergency dispatch.
“This means more emergency ambulances available on the road during this incredibility challenging time.”
Ambulance Victoria chief executive, Professor Tony Walker said this quarter’s performance data were not surprising given the level of demand being experienced right across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“The entire healthcare system across Australia is under sustained pressure and our paramedics and first responders are experiencing this first-hand,” Professor Walker said.
“Along with increasing numbers of COVID-19 positive patients, demand has quickly rebounded to levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the lockdowns.
“Performance has also been impacted by time spent at busy hospitals transferring patients, wearing PPE to all cases and people who have delayed visiting their GP or specialist during lockdown now finding themselves more unwell and needing urgent care.
“We are asking every Victorian to work with us by saving triple zero for emergencies by calling Nurse-On-Call (1300 60 60 24) for immediate health advice or seeing your GP or pharmacist early for advice or treatment.”
Professor Walker welcomed the state government’s $40 million investment that will boost our capacity to transport suspected and confirmed COVID-19 patients and patients with less serious conditions.
“This funding package addresses the challenges we have today related to performance, to workload and demand with more paramedics, additional non-emergency patient transport vehicles and more support to improve patient flow at emergency departments,” he said.
“The boost to non-emergency transport services will ensure patients get the right care at the right time, and that emergency ambulances are available for those needing time critical care.
“We suspect we will be facing these challenges due to COVID-19 until at least the end of the year and early into 2022.”