Victoria calls for national cabinet to consider COVID strain on frontline healthcare workers

By Melissa Coade

Monday August 9, 2021

The latest Victorian Health Services Performance Report shows Ambulance Victoria experienced its busiest period on record in April-June 2020-21.
The latest Victorian Health Services Performance Report shows Ambulance Victoria experienced its busiest period on record in April-June 2020-21. (Adam Calaitzis/Adobe)

The latest Victorian Health Services Performance Report has revealed that Ambulance Victoria experienced its busiest period on record in the April-June quarter of 2020-21.

On Friday health minister Martin Foley announced a $759 million package to address some of the challenges facing the state’s health and emergency services.

“We are investing more than $759 million to deliver more paramedics, more beds and new types of triage, to help Victoria recover faster and ensure our community continues to get the care they deserve,” Foley said. 

A portion of the funding will also go towards an expansion of telehealth services. 

The funding will also be used to hire additional nurses, 300 extra paramedics, get more ambulance vehicles on the road and a capacity boost for Victorian hospital emergency departments (EDs).

Foley said the state government had notified the national cabinet of the added burden Victoria’s healthcare system had shouldered during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“National Cabinet has recognised all states are experiencing record emergency department presentations with sicker patients, and record ambulance callouts,” he said.

According to the health services report, Victorian hospital emergency departments cared for 34.2% more patients (479,719 people) compared to the same period in the 12 months before.

Victorian paramedics responded to 26.2% more calls in the latest quarter compared to the same quarter in the previous year (84,441 calls compared with 68,906). This year paramedics also attended an additional 17,535 call outs. 

Despite the extra strain, the state’s healthcare system reported improvements in the percentage of patients treated within the recommended time across all emergency care treatment categories. According to the report, those patients in among the sickest ‘category one’ were all seen immediately.

The minister added that Victoria had requested for a national working group to be convened to ‘address issues around funding arrangements, reforms to care models, and workforce fatigue’ caused by the pandemic.

“It must be a national priority to address these critical issues and National Cabinet must commit to fixing them,” Foley said.

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