Incident Log Reveals Ambulance Service Crisis

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15th December 2008, 07:33am - Views: 942

Government Emergency Services Ambulance Employees Australia 1 image

Monday 15 December 2008 

Incident log reveals ambulance service crisis

Long, potentially deadly waits for ambulances and scheduled services not running are

commonplace, an incident log compiled by the Victorian ambulance union released today


Dangerously slow response times, paramedic overwork and inadequate ambulance coverage

in Victoria feature in the log of 291 incidents between August and November this year. Actual

figures are likely to be many times higher, as the log is only a sample of incidents.

An unconscious 70-year-old who waited 57 minutes for an ambulance was just one of 20

critical code one patients who waited over 25 minutes for an ambulance.

In another case, an 89-year-old woman with severe chest pains was taken to hospital by car

after waiting 23 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Over 100 incidences of patients waiting

dangerously long periods for an ambulance and failures to provide adequate care are listed in

the log. 

The log details 175 cases of reduced ambulance services, with 96 scheduled shifts not

running during that period. 


September 5 was typical of how dangerously low coverage can get. Four of Melbourne’s 16

intensive care paramedic units did not run, while six regular ambulance services were

dropped over the city. That evening, ten cars that normally run in the city were also dropped.

A week earlier six of Melbourne’s ambulances were cancelled.  

Overwork and fatigue is also a serious issue in the service. One regional paramedic worked a

22-hour shift in September to cover a colleague off sick. Official Ambulance Victoria reports

show rural paramedics average 55 days overtime a year, while Melbourne paramedics do

about six weeks a year. 

Ambulance Employees Association State Secretary Steve McGhie says he sent a copy of the

log to Health Minister Daniel Andrews four weeks ago, but has not received a response to the


“These figures show the ambulance service is failing the community. People’s lives are being

put at risk by slow response times and cancelled ambulances.”

“Paramedics are working massive hours to cover our over-stretched service, and when

everyone else is with their friends and family at Christmas, this is their busiest time of the


“The community needs to be extremely cautious over the holiday season, because this log

shows the ambulance you need in a crisis simply may not be there.”

“We’re calling on Mr Andrews and Mr Brumby to stop neglecting the community and fix this

crisis. We need more ambos and better resources now. We need to recognise and reward the

skills and experience of the paramedics we already have, and attract new people to the

profession. The only way we are going to do that is to give paramedics fair wages and decent

10-hour rest breaks.”

continues on next page 

Government Emergency Services Ambulance Employees Australia 2 image

Examples of ambulance service failure

Response times

August 29: 

An unconscious 40-year-old male in critical condition (Code 1) waits 90

minutes in police custody for ambulance attention.  

Sept 17: 

A 50-year-old woman with severe breathing problems (Code 1) waits 53

minutes for an ambulance

October 14: 

An 83-year-old woman suffers a stroke (Code 1) and has to wait 38 minutes

for an ambulance.  

August 21: 

A regional code 3 patient waits 6h46mins to be transferred to another 


October 9: 

A man with assault and knife wounds (Code 2) waits in police custody for an

ambulance for 66 minutes. Police end up taking him to hospital. 

Cancelled ambulance services

Sept 5:  

Six regular ambulances cancelled.

Four of 16 Melbourne intensive care ambulance services do not run. One

cancelled in the evening. 10 support cars do not run in the evening. 

August 30: 

Six Melbourne ambulances cancelled on evening shift. 

Nov 14: 

Eight Friday night ambulances not on road.  

Nov 22: 

Five of Melbourne’s 76 Saturday night ambulances not on road. 

Regional ambulances frequently cancelled, run on reduced staffing, or left without coverage if

crew attend emergency away out of the area. 

Paramedic overwork

Sept 17:

Paramedic works 22-hours straight to cover another ambo off sick.

Nov 27:

Paramedic works 14hour shift without a break. Raises issue with

management, as it is a common occurrence, told to “get used to it”.

Regional paramedics do 11 weeks overtime a year, Melbourne paramedics do six. 

Contact Information

Media comment: Steve McGhie, AEA State Secretary 0425 755 906

For an email version of press release with key statistics and the incident log

please contact: Matt Fennessy, AEA Media Support Officer, 0424 148 626 or


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