In a bid to improve response times, there will no longer be two paramedics in one ambulance, with the crew to be split and joined by a driver from the ADF, St John’s Ambulance, State Emergency Service or student paramedics.
Ambulance Victoria Executive Director of Clinical Operations Mick Stephenson said ten defence staff have been initially brought on to assist crews from next week.
“It’s something we would have liked not to have done, but that is the state of the nation, we’re in such dire circumstances we have to do it,” he told The Age.
Victoria’s Ambulance Service has been described as being in “dire circumstances” as they are forced to bring in defence personnel and student paramedics to drive vehicles in order to improve response times. Picture: Getty
Demand for ambulances during the state’s sixth lockdown has climbed to record levels – similar to what was experienced in the 2016 thunderstorm asthma event – and the service reported four of its five busiest days in the last two weeks alone.
He flagged it was now taking an average of 50 minutes – a 20 minute increase from late 2019 – for a patient to be offloaded from the stretcher after arriving at a hospital.
“Lights and sirens” cases increased by 15 per cent last week due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases with paramedics seeing more than 200 coronavirus patients a day.
Victoria’s health system is an ‘absolute disaster zone’
Modelling predicts crews will be called out to an extra 100 patients by next week as the state continues to record days of more than 1,400 infections.
The Ambulance Service has put in measures to ensure it does not become overwhelmed with hundreds of non urgent cases to be attended to by local GPs and nurses via a secondary referral service.
Prof Stephenson said “unless they are really sick, they won’t be getting an ambulance” and stressed for all residents in the state to get vaccinated as soon as possible to help ease the strain on the health system.
Modelling has predicted crews will be called out to an extra 100 patients, on top of the more than 200 they already see a day, by next week as more than 1,400 cases a day are reported. Picture: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images
Victoria’s Australian Medical Association President Roderick McRae said some patients had to be taken to Geelong in regional Victoria instead of a metropolitan hospital as many were nearing capacity on Sunday night.
“Today, it is really bad,” he said. “Every part of the hospitals are saturated today and that is the only news I am getting. I think Victorians are going to be really shocked by just how much pressure our health system will be under in the coming weeks.”
“Nobody seems to want to say this, but we are in a healthcare emergency. Nobody seems to want to say this is a crisis. The Victorian government still hasn’t declared a statewide disaster, which I think is needed so people realise just how tough the circumstances are.”
‘COVID does not discriminate’: ICU nurse urges Victorians to get vaccinated
Victoria’s COVID-19 crisis worsened this week with 1,377 cases on Monday, a national pandemic record of 1,763 on Tuesday, 1,420 on Wednesday and 1,638, the second highest figure in the country on Thursday.
Admissions to hospitals have spiked with the state’s health department on Thursday announcing 564 coronavirus hospitalisations, an increase of 39 patients from Wednesday.
The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care increased by 21 to 115, while an additional 21 Victorians requiring breathing assistance took the number of those on ventilators to 74.
“They will continue to go up,” Acting Chief Health Officer Professor Ben Cowie said during Thursday’s COVID-19 press conference after the state recorded its second highest daily figure of 1,638 cases.
“Tragically, as cases go up, we will see a week, 10 days afterwards, hospital cases go up. When someone is first diagnosed, the real danger is seven days after the onset of symptoms, particularly in the second week.”
Burnet Institute modelling predicts cases in Victoria will peak between October 19 and 31 with as many as 1,400 to 2,900 cases.
Hospitalisations could soar to 1,200-2,500 patients, as well as 260-550 people in ICU, with 24 per cent of simulations resulting in hospital demand exceeding 2,500.

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