Ambo ‘ramp’ hours up

THE hours ambulances spend ‘ramped’ at Latrobe Regional Hospital each month have risen dramatically in past years.

The State Opposition released Freedom of Information documents last week amid claims ambulances spent too long “sitting in queues, waiting” at hospitals, impinging on their time spent attending emergencies.

However, hospital performance data also released recently showed 91.7 per cent of patients who attended LRH via ambulance were transferred within the designated 40 minutes.

LRH chief executive Peter Craighead said the Victorian Health Services report showed for the December 2011 quarter there were 2111 presentations at LRH via ambulance.

Opposition Parliamentary Secretary for Health Wade Noonan said ambulances were ‘ramping’ at LRH for about 150 hours per month.

According to an FOI document, this represented a rise of more than 100 hours per month since 2009/2010.

In 2010/2011 ambulances spent about 115 hours per month ‘ramped’.

‘Ramping’ refers to the time interval from when an ambulance arrives at the hospital until the patient is transferred from the ambulance stretcher and hand-over to the hospital staff is complete.

Mr Noonan said the jump in ramping times indicated the Victorian hospital system was “constantly in gridlock” and there were “less ambulances available to respond to life-threatening emergencies”.

He said the State Government’s 2012-2013 budget papers revealed ambulance response times for life-threatening emergencies were also getting longer.

“The proportion of emergency (code one) incidents responded to within 15 minutes across the state is expected to be just 74.7 per cent for the 2011-2012 period, more than 10 per cent lower that the Ballieu Government’s target,” he said.

According to a table released by Mr Noonan, ambulances spend longer ramped at LRH per month than they do at Ballarat Hospital but less than they do at Geelong Hospital (Barwon Health) and Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton.

While LRH did not comment on the rise in ‘ramping’ hours identified by Mr Noonan, Mr Craighead said LRH hospital staff “strive to meet the clinical needs of an increasing number of patients who present to the emergency department”, indicating increased ‘ramped’ hours reflected an increase in the ED patient load.

He also said recent performance data showed LRH had “improved across a number of key performance areas within the ED”.