A "code red" has been issued by Ambulance Victoria due to high demand for ambulances.
Between midnight and 3am on Wednesday, the service advised there would likely be a delay in ambulances arriving because of an extremely high demand in the metropolitan region.
"Our priority is to provide care to Victorians who require life-saving assistance," Ambulance Victoria said in a statement.
They reminded people to call NURSE ON CALL on 1300 60 60 24 or visit their local GP if their case was not an emergency.
While it's not known what caused the "code red" to be declared, Victoria's health system continues to be under immense pressure as the state battles its latest outbreak of Covid.
Victoria recorded 14,020 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, taking total active cases to 48,297.
On Monday, three Victorian hospitals warned people not to visit emergency departments unless "absolutely necessary" due to extreme pressure from rising Covid-19 admissions and demand for testing.
Western Health – which manages Sunshine, Footscray and Williamstown hospitals in Melbourne's west – says all three are "currently under extreme pressure".
"Please DO NOT attend the ED unless absolutely necessary," the health service tweeted on Monday.
"Those with mild Covid symptoms seeking PCR or rapid tests should NOT ATTEND. Thank you for your cooperation."
Ambulance Victoria is experiencing an extremely high demand for ambulances in the metropolitan region. It is likely there will be a delay in an ambulance reaching you. If it's not an emergency, please call NURSE-ON-CALL (1300 60 60 24) pic.twitter.com/TO0ibcw6kD
— Ambulance Victoria (@AmbulanceVic) January 4, 2022
Western Health executive director Suellen Bruce said the warning came after extremely high levels of demand from the community, paired with Covid-related staffing issues.
"A range of factors have led to the excessive pressure: Significant staff shortages due to Covid; a high number of people with mild Covid symptoms presenting seeking a Covid test," she said.
"The typical high demand during a public holiday period; and limited available beds within our hospitals (in part due to furloughing of staff)."
Health Minister Martin Foley described Western Health's response as "sensible" and suggested other health networks were adopting the same approach.
All of the state's emergency departments are facing "unprecedented demand" which is growing every day, he said.
"We are seeing business as usual – for want of a better phrase – demand continue to grow as people get out more and as people come forward for all the normal things that a health service needs to deliver," Mr Foley told reporters on Monday.
Victoria's Covid-19 commander Jeroen Weimar said he expected coronavirus hospitalisations would "increase quite rapidly in the days ahead".
"If we look at the experience in New South Wales, who appear to be about a week or so ahead of us in this pandemic, they're now starting to report quite significant numbers," he said.
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