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Victorian A&E waits blow out, ambulances unable to reach code 1 timeframes

Written by Javed Iqbal

“There are no signs that demand will slow down through the winter. COVID-19 continues to pose a high risk to Victorians and will do for some time,” said Ambulance Victoria interim chief executive Felicity Topp.

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Ambulances were called to 97,928 code 1 cases from April to June this year, making this quarter the busiest in Ambulance Victoria’s history.

There were 16 per cent (or 13,487) more “lights and sirens” incidents compared to this time last year and 4,694 more than the previous quarter.

A slight improvement was reported in the number of Victorians waiting for “scheduled” or elective operations, with the waiting list now at just over 87,000, down around 1600. There was also a nearly 50 per cent increase in patients receiving their operations compared to the previous quarter.

However, the data does not include the peak of the most recent Omicron wave, which disrupted elective surgery as beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients and staff fell ill with COVID, flu and other winter illnesses.

Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said it was not yet possible to say with certainty whether the waiting list for elective surgery would continue to fall in the coming months.

“We’re still feeling the effects of COVID in our health care system. In this quarter that we’re in right now, we’ve seen significant hospitalizations with COVID, we continue to see furloughs, but we’ve put in place a number of reforms and I hope to see them continue to deliver results,” she said.

Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the state's hospitals were still feeling the effects of COVID.

Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the state’s hospitals were still feeling the effects of COVID.Credit:Luis Enrique Ascuí

“We are working with all our health services to ensure that everyone on a waiting list is actively managed. If anyone is concerned about increasing pain or they are concerned about their symptoms, go to your GP.”

Although the number of patients treated in emergency departments has not increased in the past year, the number of those presenting with serious illness has, with hundreds requiring resuscitation.

“We’re inferring that this is a consequence of people putting off getting the care they need, so please go and see your doctor if you’re at all concerned about your health,” Thomas said.

Shadow Health spokeswoman Georgie Crozier said the ambulance response time was not good enough.

“Every second counts for a code and these targets are nowhere near being met. This is not just caused by COVID. It is years of underinvestment and mismanagement by the Andrews Labor government.”

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Javed Iqbal

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