Victoria experiences extreme ambo demand

·2-min read

Extreme demand for ambulances in Melbourne prompted a "code red" from the service overnight, but it insists pressure on the system did not cost lives.

For three hours between midnight and 3am on Wednesday, the service advised there were likely to be delays 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.

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.

Ambulance Victoria acting chief executive officer Libby Murphy said about a quarter of all calls were not for emergencies, and some were people asking for advice on PCR testing sites and where they could obtain rapid antigen tests.

"We understand people are anxious about this but we really want you to save triple zero for emergencies," she told reporters.

About 500 Ambulance Victoria staff are currently furloughed or in isolation awaiting testing results.

Ms Murphy says its surge workforce is enough to fill the void and she is confident no lives were put at risk during Wednesday's "code red".

"Nothing has come of last night and I think that's indicative of our preparedness," she said.

But Ambulance Employees Association Victoria secretary Brett Adie told AAP there was usually more than one cause for these types of events.

COVID-19 is somewhat to blame, he said, with paramedics testing positive and others in isolation leading to an inability to fill shifts and get ambulances on the road.

"It was identified pretty early that there was going to be a problem last night with staffing," Mr Adie told AAP.

But he said the virus was not the only problem, noting ambulance case numbers now are no higher than projections forecast in 2019.

Hospitals have been under pressure since before the pandemic, he said, and that can lead to delays in transferring patients, which in turn affects the number of ambulances on the road.

Mr Adie has called for a better referral process, improved options for leaving people at home, and using on-call services to put people in touch with a doctor when they do not need to be taken to hospital.

He said changes were starting to happen but had to be implemented faster and should have been brought in sooner.

"We've become reactive instead of proactive," he said.

"We were resourced for yesterday, not for tomorrow. We're failing the community - the community have higher expectations. And fair enough, so they should."

Acting premier Jacinta Allan encouraged people who had returned a positive PCR or rapid antigen test to carefully manage their symptoms.

"People with milder symptoms (should) connect with their GP, contact nurse on call ... to get some advice on your symptoms before heading off to emergency or calling an ambulance," she said.

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