New graduate paramedics for Gippsland

More than 1300 paramedics have been added to Victoria's network in the last two years. Photo: File

MORE paramedics are hitting the road across Gippsland, as new data shows demand for emergency ambulances is rising sharply again for winter.

Ambulance Victoria Gippsland Director Regional and Clinical Operations, Ross Salathiel said the fourth quarter of 2022/23 was Ambulance Victoria’s third busiest on record, with ambulance responses impacted by a 5.5 per cent increase in demand compared to the previous quarter.

“Every winter, we see demand rise, and this year is still challenging as COVID-19 and influenza spreads, and more staff are furloughed due to illness,” Mr Salathiel said.

“April to June saw ambulances called to 97,509 Code 1 cases state-wide, which is more than 5000 additional ‘lights and sirens’ cases compared to the previous three months. This is a huge 29.3 per cent increase from 75,398 Code 1 cases five years ago before the pandemic hit.

“This winter, we again urge you to help our paramedics, first responders and hospitals by saving Triple Zero (000) for emergencies and accessing alternative care options which can better meet your needs.”

From April to June, paramedics and first responders across Victoria responded to 61.7 per cent of Code 1 cases within the state-wide average target of 15 minutes. The state-wide average response time to Code 1 emergencies was 16 minutes and four seconds.

In the Gippsland Region, response times have improved in the Wonthaggi, Warragul and Moe/Newborough major population centres. Compared to the same time last year, the average response time to Code 1 patients has improved from:

-12 minutes and 53 seconds to 10 minutes and 51 seconds in the Wonthaggi major population centre, an improvement of two minutes and two seconds. Paramedics responded to 85.6 per cent of Code 1 cases within the state-wide average target of 15 minutes – making it the second best performing major population centre in the state;

-13 minutes and 12 seconds to 12 minutes and 46 seconds in the Warragul major population centre, an improvement of 26 seconds, and;

-13 minutes and 22 seconds to 13 minutes and 11 seconds in the Moe/Newborough major population centre, an improvement of 11 seconds.

Between April and June state-wide, an average of nearly 88 staff were furloughed every day due to COVID-19. As a wave of COVID-19 spread during the quarter, the number of staff furloughed increased from a low of 54 on April 1 to a peak of 149 on May 24.

On top of staff furlough and increasing winter demand, Ambulance Victoria was also impacted by the pressures felt across the entire emergency care system.

Mr Salathiel said to help respond to increasing demand and to get more ambulances on the road and to patients quicker, Ambulance Victoria had recruited 118 new graduate paramedics over the past month, including 10 in the Gippsland Region.

“This builds on our record recruitment of more than 1300 paramedics over the past two years,” Mr Salathiel said.

“We welcome all our new graduate paramedics and wish them the best for long and rewarding careers at Ambulance Victoria.”

Ambulance Victoria Executive Director Clinical Operations, Anthony Carlyon said Ambulance Victoria has evolved into a modern health service that ensures patients get the right care, at the right time, in the right place.

“For less urgent cases, we’ve tripled the size of our secondary triage team and have referred more than 40,000 patients to the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED) since October 2021 to help avoid unnecessary trips to our hospitals where safe and appropriate,” Mr Carlyon said.

“While ambulances are always provided to patients when required, from April to June, 38,994 people who did not need an emergency ambulance were instead connected by paramedics and nurses in our 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.

“Some people hesitate to call Triple Zero (000) because they are not sure if their situation is an emergency. If in doubt, always call Triple Zero (000), and the trained call-taker will help and direct you.

“Meanwhile, our Medium Acuity Transport Service (MATS) crews dedicated for less-urgent calls are freeing up more ambulances to respond to the most critically ill patients.

“Despite our current challenges, our dedicated paramedics continue to deliver safe and high-quality patient outcomes, including Australia’s best cardiac arrest survival rates.”