More Victorians than ever are being left waiting for an urgent ambulance response, or to be seen at emergency departments, as the state’s frontline health services continue to be stretched by staff illness and increasingly sick patients.
Victoria’s latest quarterly health performance data, released on Saturday, shows a dramatic increase in the number of people who have been stuck in emergency departments for more than a day, as they wait for a bed to become available in hospitals grappling with COVID, the flu and care delayed as a result of the pandemic.
From April to June this year, 1844 patients had their ED stays stretch out for more than 24 hours, a more than four-fold increase in a year.
Meanwhile, Ambulance Victoria is falling considerably short of its target to reach 85 per cent of the state’s code-one cases within 15 minutes, following a third consecutive quarter where code one demand records have been broken.
Only 64 per cent of these priority patients were reached within this timeframe, and many paramedics instead spent too long stuck at clogged emergency departments, where more than 40 per cent of ambulance patients were caught in a queue waiting to be admitted for more than 40 minutes.
In good news, there has been a small improvement in the number of Victorians waiting for “planned” or elective surgeries which now stands at just above 87,000, a decrease of about 1600.
However, the data does not include the peak of the latest Omicron wave, which disrupted elective surgery as beds were taken up by COVID-19 patients or staff fell sick to COVID, the flu or other winter illnesses.
Victorian Health Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said it was not yet possible to say with confidence whether the elective surgery waiting list would continue to decline over the months to come.