My contribution this evening is in relation to the Auditor-General’s report that was tabled in March and deals with emergency service response times. The report outlines the concerns the Auditor-General has about the way emergency response times are measured as well as the very limited public reporting of performance measures.
The report states that the performance frameworks that emergency service organisations use to monitor response times do not allow the Parliament and the public to fully hold these agencies to account, and it calls for greater transparency. The report reiterates that Ambulance Victoria failed to meet its own targets over the four years of the previous government. Page 37 shows that Ambulance Victoria response times have been consistently longer than the target of 15 minutes. During the last few years of the previous government the average time taken for paramedics to respond to 90 per cent of code 1 cases was 22.4 minutes compared to 19 minutes in July 2009.
These figures and the report remind us of the horrifying scenes we saw around our hospitals under the previous government and the coverage they received in the local media. Geelong residents would recall reading in the Geelong Advertiser of 10 September 2014 that ambulances had had to queue for 2 hours. The article shed light on the fact that the ambulance fiasco under the previous government was occurring regularly and the response from the government had been lame to say the least.
On the morning discussed in the article seven ambulances were waiting outside Geelong Hospital’s emergency department. This was one of many examples highlighted in the local media. In response, the then Minister for Health, Mr Davis, admitted that there was ‘much more work to do’ on ambulance response times. That was two months before the state election. It was only then that he made the admission, on the eve of the election, after four years of fighting with our valued emergency services personnel, that the government had essentially mismanaged the whole health system.
Response times got so bad that the previous government went to great lengths to cover up what they really were, and it axed a website that would reveal in-depth data to the public on response times. The Auditor-General’s report states that in December last year Ambulance Victoria released information about regional response times for the first time. This was one of the first things the Labor government did after being elected to office. We went into the election with commitments about greater transparency and about releasing data, particularly data that related to the services that are so pertinent to the ongoing health of our community.
Chapter 4 of the report recommends that Ambulance Victoria improve the transparency of public reporting on response times by including regional performance and analysis of the factors affecting performance, and that is what Labor has done. A report, which was kept secret by the previous government but released in December last year by Labor, showed that in 2013 more than 86 000 critically ill people, including those having heart attacks and strokes, waited longer than 15 minutes for an ambulance. That number is almost double what it was in 2010 when Labor left office. I also use this opportunity to mention that the report highlights that people living in the Golden Plains shire, which is in my electorate, were the worst off in the state, with just 1 in 10 urgent code 1 calls receiving an ambulance within 15 minutes. I thank the Auditor-General for uncovering this data.