ON average, paramedics are responding more than one minute faster to the most seriously ill people, after record demand for ambulances eased between January and March.

Ambulance Victoria Acting Executive Director Clinical Operations, Michael Georgiou, said ambulance performance improved thanks to reduced demand and fewer staff furloughed due to COVID-19.

“January to March saw ambulances called to 92,413 Code 1 cases, which provided some welcome relief to our hard-working paramedics who faced rising demand during the pandemic,” Mr Georgiou said.

“That’s 7825 or 7.8 per cent fewer ‘lights and sirens’ cases compared to the previous quarter – which was the busiest in our history with more than 100,000 cases.

“We thank the community for helping us relieve pressure on our paramedics, first responders and the health system by saving Triple Zero (000) for emergencies.”

From January to March, paramedics and first responders across Victoria responded to 65.2 per cent of Code 1 cases within the state-wide average target of 15 minutes – up from 60.2 per cent in the previous three months.

As a result, the state-wide average response time to Code 1 emergencies was 15 minutes and 20 seconds – an improvement of one minute and 24 seconds.

Performance against the 15-minute target improved in 67 of Victoria’s 79 local government areas (LGAs), with some of the largest improvements in rural Victoria and Melbourne’s outer suburbs.

Mr Georgiou said along with reduced demand, a drop in staff furloughed due to COVID-19 at Ambulance Victoria, and across the entire health system, made a real difference.

“This helped speed up the handover of patients at hospitals and allowed to us get back on the road quicker to attend more life-threating emergencies,” Mr Georgiou said.

Between January and March, an average of nearly 54 Ambulance Victoria staff were furloughed every day due to COVID-19. As a wave of COVID-19 eased, the number of staff furloughed decreased from a peak of 112 on January 5, 2023 to a low of 29 on February 21, 2023.

“However, now is not the time to be complacent. We know demand is already rising again and will continue to do so as we head towards winter,” Mr Georgiou said.

“That’s why I encourage all Victorians to take care of themselves and keep regular check-ups with your GP or specialist and get your COVID-19 booster and annual flu shot. For more minor ailments, visit your local Priority Primary Care Centre.”

Mr Georgiou said while ambulances are always provided to patients when required, from January to March, 37,825 people who did not need an emergency ambulance were instead connected by paramedics and nurses in the secondary triage team to more appropriate care.

“That results in 500 or more cases every day being safely matched to services that better suit their needs while also avoiding emergency dispatch,” Mr Georgiou said.

Mr Georgiou said Ambulance Victoria continued to work closely with stakeholders across the entire health system to ensure patients received the most appropriate response for their needs, and improved ambulance availability across the state.

“We’ve recruited more than 1300 paramedics over the past two years, tripled the size of our secondary triage team, and have referred almost 32,000 cases to the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED) since October 2021 to help avoid unnecessary trips to our hospitals,” he said.