Ovens & Murray Advertiser

Cut the wait


THE State Government have earmarked lagging ambulance response times in regional centres as an area of concern, as part of a $457m budget commitment towards improving emergency despatch.

Some 400 additional call-takers are expected to bolster the Emergency Services Telecommun­ication Authority (ESTA) across the state, while $124m will be allocated to train a further 90 paramedics, improve ambulance fleet management, and reduce bottleneck­s at emergency department­s (ED).

According to Wangaratta-based state MP Tania Maxwell, the commitment could not come soon enough, after average ambulance wait times ballooned to 20 minutes and 16 seconds across northern Victoria, well above the state average of 15 minutes and 15 seconds.

“I’ve been raising ambulance service issues consistent­ly with the government across the past three years,” she said.

“I’ve brought to ministers’ and parliament’s attention many times the challenges my communitie­s face with ESTA call-handling, ambulance emergency response times, hospital ramping and how community paramedics and first-responder services could be supported to reduce the strains on our health system.

“But the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath seem only to have made things worse - when every second counts, the latest Ambulance Victoria performanc­e data shows northern Victorians had to wait 50 seconds longer on average in the three months to the end of March than they did for an ambulance to arrive at a code one call-out in the previous quarter.

“In Indigo in the North East, one of our smallest shires by population and area, the latest data shows the average emergency response time has blown out three minutes in the past quarter, to 24:51 minutes, and more than 2:12 minutes in the past year.”

A State Government spokespers­on said specific allocation­s of paramedics to the North East were yet to be confirmed.

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