The truth about ambulance response times exposed

More than 87,000 Victorians waited too long for an emergency ambulance last year, official figures obtained by the paramedics union reveal.

Only 71.6% of emergency calls were reached on time across the state. The government’s benchmark is for all ambulances to reach Code One patients within 15 minutes 85% of the time. Within high density population areas the target is a 15 minute response 90% of the time.

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The figures show that the Napthine government failed its target in every part of the state.

The five best performed areas were all within metropolitan Melbourne where the higher 90% target applies. They were Yarra (89.16%), Melbourne (88.18%), Whitehorse (87.01%), Maribyrnong (86.7%) and Port Phillip (86.01%.

The failure rate was at its worst in regional areas where only a small percentage of emergencies were reached on time. These included Golden Plains (12.01%), Hepburn (14.35%), Indigo (21.94%) Queenscliffe (23.72%), Loddon (26.96%) and Yarriambiack (28.87%).

In Greater Geelong a total of 4606 emergency patients waited too long for an ambulance; in Greater Bendigo the number was 2111; in Yarra Ranges the number was 3313, while on the Mornington Peninsula 3403 emergency patients waited more than 15 minutes.

The figures were obtained under a Freedom of Information request initiated by the Ambulance Employees Association and lodged on January 8, this year. After months of delay and legal bids by the union, Ambulance Victoria released the figures this week. They cover for the period January 1, 2013 to January 8, 2014.

“This is the ambulance crisis in detail,” says AEA Victoria secretary, Steve McGhie.

“This is the big failure the Napthine government and Ambulance Victoria wanted to hide. They resisted releasing these numbers because they expose their abject failure to create a more effective ambulance service.”

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McGhie says that a change in the reporting method makes it difficult to compare the performance with earlier annual periods.

Instead of reporting the response times for individual ambulance centres according to earlier practice, these figures are based on local government areas.

However, a report by the Victorian Auditor General four years ago did give a snapshot of ambulance response times by local government area for the 2009-10 financial year. That report showed that in 2009-10 19% of ambulances failed to arrive on time, compared to more than 28% in 2013.

“We have said for a long time that one in four emergencies will not see an ambulance on time, and these numbers confirm that the real outcome is even worse than that,” says McGhie.

“But we cannot track precisely how much worse these outcomes are than earlier periods because of the change in reporting method.

“What we do know is that the results are completely unacceptable.

“The fact that paramedics are held in such high esteem by the Victorian public despite the Napthine government’s failure to properly resource the system is testimony to the dedication and professionalism of our members.”

The figures show:

•    Of 306,316 Code One call outs there were 87,021 incidents (28.4%) in which the 15 minute benchmark was not met;

•    The five best local government response area were all within metropolitan Melbourne: (Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Port Phillip, Whitehorse and Yarra) where the response time target is for an emergency ambulance to arrive within 15 minutes 90% of the time, and no area achieved that;

•    In 25 local government areas emergency ambulances were unable to reach patients within 15 minutes even half the time;

•    The five worst local government areas were Golden Plains, near Geelong, (12.01%); Hepburn, which takes in the Daylesford-Hepburn Springs tourist area (14.35%); Indigo, which includes Beechworth and Rutherglen (21.94%) Queenscliffe on the Bellarine Peninsula (23.72%) and Loddon, north west of Bendigo (26.96%)

And the last word goes to our ambos:

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