Stay Alert: Explore Alternate Care Services This Winter

Paramedics driving an ambulance on the road.

Paramedics are urging Victorians to access alternative care options and get their flu and COVID-19 vaccinations now before winter, as new data shows demand for emergency ambulances remains high.

Ambulance Victoria (AV) Acting Executive Director Clinical Operations Andrew Keenan said paramedics were reaching the sickest patients on average 31 seconds faster than a year earlier despite demand increasing 4.4 per cent.

"Our hardworking paramedics and first responders deliver world-class care every day in the face of ongoing high demand - and we can all do our part to help," Mr Keenan said.

"Winter is a particularly bad time for the spread of illness. The good news is getting your flu shot and staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations will help you and the people around you stay well. Book in now with your pharmacist or doctor.

"Along with simple things like staying home if you're unwell and washing and sanitising your hands often, these routine winter vaccinations can protect what's most important to all of us - our health.

"And if we look after our health - it will also make a real difference to our busy paramedics who again face rising demand as we head into winter.

"We also encourage all Victorians to take care of themselves, keep regular check-ups with your GP or specialist - and if it's not urgent, get familiar with alternative care pathways."

January to March 2024 was the busiest Quarter 3 on record for emergency ambulances with 150,048 Code 1 and Code 2 cases combined. This includes 96,484 Code 1 cases and 53,564 Code 2 cases.

This is a huge 33.4 per cent increase from 72,318 Code 1 cases recorded five years ago, before the pandemic.

From January to March 2024, paramedics across Victoria responded to 67.7 per cent of Code 1 cases within the statewide target of 15 minutes - up from 65.2 per cent a year ago.

As a result, the state-wide average response time to Code 1 emergencies improved by 31 seconds to 14 minutes and 49 seconds. Our response to less-urgent Code 2 cases also fell by two minutes and 21 seconds despite a 7.5 per cent increase in demand from a year ago.

Improvements were made across metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, with performance improving in 62 of 79 Local Government Areas (LGAs) compared with a year ago.

Mr Keenan said there were many options people can access when they need timely medical care and health advice but not an emergency ambulance.

"By using these services, it helps keep our ambulances ready and available for the sickest patients, particularly those with life-threatening conditions," Mr Keenan said.

"If it's not life-threatening, you can connect directly with emergency doctors and nurses at the Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED) from anywhere in Victoria, 24-hours, seven days a week.

"This convenient, free service can assess non-life-threatening emergencies virtually in the comfort of home with no need to attend an emergency department.

"Other options also include your local Priority Primary Care Centre (PPCC), your GP or pharmacist, or Nurse-On-Call on 1300 60 60 24.

"PPCCs provide free care for people with conditions that require urgent attention but not an emergency response, including conditions like mild infections and burns and suspected fractures or broken bones.

"Doing this will help keep you and your friends, family and community well, and protect a health system which always faces extra pressure during winter."

Mr Keenan said while ambulances are always provided to patients when required, about one in five calls to Triple Zero (000) do not need an emergency ambulance response.

"From January to March, 39,227 people who did not need an emergency ambulance were instead connected to more appropriate care by paramedics and nurses in AV's Secondary Triage team.

"Over the past 12-months, paramedics have referred more than 28,850 patients to the VVED. A further 7,000 patients have been referred to the VVED following assessment by our Secondary Triage team - up 135 per cent from a year ago.

"We again remind everyone to save Triple Zero (000) for emergencies - this is to ensure the sickest Victorians receive life-saving care. If you do need an emergency ambulance, always call Triple Zero (000).

"We continue to work with hospitals to improve transfer times, relieve pressure in the system and ensure ambulances can become available to respond to emergency cases in the community."

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