A spike in emergency calls forced Ambulance Victoria to declare a 'Code Red' on Monday night, the same level reached during the state's deadly thunderstorm asthma event four years ago.
Ambulance Victoria said all critically unwell patients received "timely care", but there were longer wait times than usual for patients who were not suffering from a life-threatening illness.
Danny Hill, secretary of the Victorian Ambulance Union, said the warm night – temperatures did not drop below 20 degrees in Melbourne's CBD – coupled with eased COVID-19 restrictions and staff shortages had led to Monday night's perfect storm.
"Sometimes hot nights are a little bit worse. People's ailments normally keep them up late and if you can't sleep, they reach crisis point and that's when they dial triple zero," he said.
"What has happened since COVID is that a lot of people have been either not getting into their GP or not taking the time to see their GP. They think, 'I will just deal with it later.' That can lead to having a situation where things get so bad they just call an ambulance."
"And since restrictions have eased, it's been incredibly busy. Busier than it was before lockdown. The workload is getting to a point where [paramedics] are working overtime shifts, working late and not getting their meal breaks."
Ambulance Victoria was forced to put out a tweet on Monday night, pleading with Victorians who were not in danger to use Nurse on Call instead of dialling triple zero.
In a statement on Tuesday morning, Ambulance Victoria said that non-urgent patients were provided with care over the phone by experienced nurses and paramedics through a secondary triage service.
"Our priority is to ensure we have adequate resources for Code 1 patients who require a lights and sirens urgent response," the statement said. "These patients are categorised as the sickest Victorians who require urgent lifesaving care."
But Mr Hill said massive gaps in resourcing meant Monday night's surge in demand could happen again.
"If this keeps going, it will only be a matter of time before we see a death occur. You can never accurately say that the patient would have survived had an ambulance got to them on time. But if an ambulance doesn't get to a cardiac arrest case within, say, 15 minutes, their chances of survival are very, very poor," he said.
"There is nothing really special about last night beyond it was a bit warm. There are going to be more warm nights. It's quite concerning that we don't have enough paramedics on the road at the moment to be able to deal with that safely."
Catch all the day’s headlines
At the end of each day, we’ll send you the most important breaking news headlines, evening entertainment ideas and a long read to enjoy. Sign up here.
Most Viewed in National
Source: Read Full Article