I rise to make a statement on Ambulance Victoria’s annual report for 2012-13. At the outset I acknowledge and congratulate three experienced paramedics — Jon Byrne from emergency management, Kerry Power, who is a mobile intensive care ambulance paramedic, and Tony Oxford, who is a group manager. They were awarded the Ambulance Service Medal in the 2013 Australia Day honours list for making a lasting difference to the communities in which they work. All three come from very different backgrounds, and their contributions are highlighted in the report in a multitude of areas.
I also take the opportunity to thank the 850 volunteers in our auxiliaries. There are 74 auxiliaries across the state, dating back to 1918.
They have always been there and they do an enormous amount of work in fundraising and connecting local communities with the service as well as local ambulance personnel.
Turning to operational matters raised in the report and issues I have concerns about, the report hints at the crisis in respect of the lack of funding in the area of ambulance services. Most alarmingly, on page 4 the report notes that more than 25 per cent of code 1 calls — that is, the most urgent category — do not receive a response within 15 minutes. In spite of this, Ambulance Victoria and its staff perform admirably, given the extraordinary lack of resources provided by the state government. There are numerous reports from major cities in western Victoria, such as Geelong, Ballarat and Warrnambool, as well as rural areas, of astonishingly poor service provision stemming from the underfunding of ambulance services by the Napthine government,
Ramping, a system whereby ambulances are forced to wait at emergency departments for patients to be admitted, is putting additional strain on the service, particularly in Geelong. According to the Geelong Advertiser of 18 March, at peak times there have been incidents where patients suffering suspected spinal injuries have had to wait up to 3 hours for an ambulance to arrive. The average wait for a code 1 response is 11.2 minutes, the highest of any state, with 10 per cent of patients having to wait up to 23 minutes. Data from Ambulance Victoria shows the ability for the service to respond to a call within 15 minutes has decreased from 82 per cent in 2007-08 to 74.8 per cent in 2011-12. That is documented in the Australian of 28 October 2012.
In terms of my electorate, the Warrnambool Standard of 6 November last year reported on an elderly Koroit woman who had suffered a fall and had to wait over 2 hours for an ambulance on a Friday afternoon. Cases requiring an ambulance in Barwon south-west have increased by 30 per cent since the 2009-10 period.
Ramping is a significant issue, with Geelong Hospital being the worst in the state. Ambulances waited 531 hours a month to transfer patients during the last financial year, up from 301 hours in 2010. The Geelong Advertiser of 25 June 2013 asks us to compare those figures. Nine per cent of patients have to wait more than 40 minutes to be transferred into the emergency department. An ambulance from Geelong was forced to go to Ballarat as no other crews were available. That was also reported in the Geelong Advertiser of 21 June 2013.
All of this has been happening in conditions where the paramedics involved have created an epidemic of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder within the force, which creates a significant toll and has an impact on the state’s finances in the form of additional WorkCover claims. There is so much work that needs to be done in this area. We need to repair the situation, and we need to provide a better service for all Victorians.