Australian Defence Force, State Emergency Service and St Johns personnel will drive Victorian ambulances for the first time as the pandemic puts “the worst” strain on the sector that emergency workers have ever seen.
It came as Victoria recorded 1838 new cases of coronavirus on Friday, the highest daily number.
Ambulance Victoria clinic operations executive director Mick Stephenson said it now took on average 50 minutes for a patient to be offloaded from an ambulance stretcher after reaching hospital.
“That’s the longest we have ever seen in this state. Prior to COVID it was about 29 minutes,” Stephenson told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“We are seeing hundreds of cases every week, unfortunately, who are waiting more than two hours on a stretcher.”
Stephenson urged people to only come to hospital if they were sick.
“Public hospitals should not be used as general practice clinics. If people have minor illnesses they need to see their GP,” he said.
“If they are really sick they need to call us. But we can’t afford to have people who are not really sick call in because they are just clogging the system up.”
The demand will lead to only one paramedic, rather than two, to be required in up to 60 ambulances that will be driven by ADF, SES and St Johns personnel.
Former Victorian chief commissioner of police Graham Ashton will also independently review the service which delivers triple-0 services, the state government announced on Friday morning.
Ashton will look at Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority’s functions and provide advice to the government on improvements.
The government says about one-in-three calls made to triple-0 do not require emergency assistance.
“Our hardworking emergency call takers have done their absolute best throughout unprecedented demand from the pandemic – but we want to see where things can be improved,” emergency services minister Jaclyn Symes said.