Failings in the state’s ambulance services have again been laid bare, with a report showing alarming numbers.
Victoria’s ambulance services failed to meet response time targets months after a woman was found dead in her Melbourne home following hours waiting for paramedics, a report has revealed.
The Ambulance Victoria annual report, published on Thursday, said while the service had overperformed in some areas, critical ambulance response times continued to lag behind targets.
Paramedics responded to 77.2 per cent of Code 1 incidents within 15 minutes, when the target was 85 per cent, and for the most critical Priority Zero incidents, ambos responded earlier than the target of 13 minutes 81.1 per cent of the time, falling short of the 85 per cent target.
“Various obstacles such as volume of demand, case time increases and constrained unit availability made achieving … (targets) increasingly difficult,” the service’s chief executive and chair wrote in the report.
“The easing of restrictions towards the end of 2020 saw demand increase across the health system, placing significant pressure on emergency departments and waiting times for ambulance crews and their patients.”
Ambulance Victoria has come under intense scrutiny in recent months after slow ambulance response times were aired publicly.
The issue became further pronounced after a 32 year-old woman was found dead in her Caulfield North home more than six hours after she called triple zero reporting numbness and feeling light-headed.
Health advocates described the death as a casualty of an overburdened system and the Victorian government funnelled $750m into the service in May.
The service has since developed an ambulance improvement plan to address the issue but there continues to be concern Victorians’ lives are being placed at risk.
During question time in the Victorian parliament on Thursday, opposition leader Matthew Guy questioned why the service continually failed to reach its targets.
State Health Minister Martin Foley said demand for the service had skyrocketed as a result of deferred care, with the pressures of the pandemic adding further strain to the system.
“We have seen those employees put in extraordinary efforts over the last 21 months under the most difficult of circumstances,” Mr Foley said.
“We have seen a basis of deferred care across a whole range of areas absolutely skyrocket and as a result we have seen ambulance response times decline in performance.”
My Foley also called on the federal government to spend more money on the state’s healthcare system.
“I look forward, when this global pandemic is out of the way, to get into a space partnering with Ambulance Victoria, with paramedics, to get us back to that world-class standard.”
As part of a massive document drop through the Victorian parliament on Thursday, flaws in the state’s mental health system were also highlighted.
Despite the royal commission highlighting major problems with the system earlier this year, and the government committing to address them, complaints within public mental health facilities continued to rise.
In the Mental Health Complaints Commission’s report, 2286 complaints to the service were reported.
There were disturbing stories from patients, with one complaining about being mechanically restrained to a point they were in pain, and being left and ignored by staff for several hours.
A second patient with Covid told the commission they were placed into isolation for 24 hours in “extremely distressing” circumstances and felt ignored by staff.
Despite a high acknowledgment of the complaints within public health services, the commission wrote there had been no significant change to them in 98 per cent of cases.
Following the release of the royal commission’s final report, Mr Foley said the government was working hard to change the mental health system by funnelling millions of dollars into the sector.
“Reforming our mental health system in Victoria and nationally is now more important than ever, as more people reach out for help following the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
“This is the best chance that all levels of government will have to not only flatten the next curve of mental ill health but to build a better system for the long-term that will ultimately save lives.”