A “BLOWOUT” in ambulance emergency response times is of “major concern”, particularly in Victoria’s regions.
That was the warning from Ambulance Employees Australia’s Victorian branch in response to data indicating Ambulance Victoria has fallen “fundamentally well outside government benchmarks” for the proportion of emergency code one incidents responded to within 15 minutes in the past year.
AEAV secretary Steve McGhie told The Express the data meant “one in four patients won’t receive an emergency ambulance within 15 minutes, which is just not good enough”.
The AV Performance Priorities 2011-2102 report showed the target for code one responses within 15 minutes was 85 per cent while the actual figure achieved was 74.8 per cent.
The target for the number of rural emergency road cases was 133,200 but the figure reached was 129,932. Target data for non-emergency rural road cases was, however, surpassed by more than 3000 cases.
Mr McGhie said metropolitan data showing around nine per cent of AV’s calls had been referred to RefCom, a referral service for non-emergency calls, added further weight to the push to see RefCom expanded to regions immediately and “not staggered region by region”.
The Express reported earlier this month Gippsland could be waiting months for the “essential” RefCom service set to be rolled out across the state from next month.
In announcing its annual data AV said ambulance response times could be affected by “many factors including traffic, road and weather conditions, distance required to travel, demand for ambulance services, hospital transfer times and availability of crews”.
Mr McGhie attributed delays to an inadequate number of “ambulance paramedics and resources”.
AV annual report figures showed ‘on-road clinical staff’ numbers had risen from 2611 in 2010-11 to 2854 in 2011-12 but Mr McGhie challenged the calculation methods used.
“I have grave concerns that they are trying to (imply) this figure reflects on-road paramedics when it includes a whole range of other clinical transport officers, who generally work out of Melbourne and are not in any rural areas and transport non-urgent patients to appointments, for example,” he said.
Mr McGhie claimed patient transport officers were non-emergency officers and, while “yes they are staff, they should not be included in the same numbers as paramedics”, adding “to me it seems (AV) have over-inflated the true number of paramedics”.
Mr McGhie also concurred with recent State Opposition claims there was a “secret” State Government plan to not replace Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance paramedics who left or transferred to another ambulance branch.
State Opposition Health spokesperson Wade Noonan said Premier Ted Baillieu had failed to guarantee existing MICA paramedics would be replaced across “many branches in regional and rural Victoria if their positions were to fall vacant”.
“This is another major concern,” Mr McGhie said.
“I have raised it directly with the health minister.
“What it means is that if Traralgon’s MICA paramedic leaves, they won’t be replaced and they will have to rely on a