Code orange declared for Ambulance Victoria as system struggles

Emergency departments across Melbourne reached capacity and ambulances were ramped as the state’s services were again stretched thin overnight.

Dozens of Victorians were left waiting for an ambulance on Tuesday night, with a code orange again declared for the system.

Emergency departments across Melbourne were at capacity and an apparent 39 ambulances ramped in the chaos.

Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill said staff shortages and chronic impacts from the pandemic were partially to blame.

“A lot of these cases are what we call deferred care … prior to the pandemic you might have seen a doctor once a month for a chronic health condition, but during the pandemic a lot of those people have dropped off on those appointments, and of course they’re getting into a situation where they’re calling triple-0,” he told 3AW.

Up to 70 patients’ calls were left unattended at one point.

Code orange or red warnings indicate anyone needing non-emergency care should contact nurse-on-call services or find alternative transport to hospital.

Mr Hill said the service was stretched thin and relied on staff overworking.

“The burnout is high among our staff. They’re just completely fried, and Ambulance Victoria relies so much on people working overtime shifts to help bolster the service,” he said.

An Ambulance Victoria spokesperson said the high demand was amplified by staff shortages.

“The health system remains under pressure from the Covid-19 pandemic, including high numbers of staff required to furlough and sustained increases in demand,” a statement read.

“Ambulance Victoria and metropolitan hospitals experienced high demand overnight and managed the demand through our agreed escalation processes.

“In an emergency, you should always call triple-0. However, for less urgent cases people are encouraged to visit their local GP, talk to a pharmacist or call nurse-on-call.”

The latest woes come after a horror year for Victoria’s ambulance service.

In January, a code red was declared for the second time in a week as services stretched desperately thin across the city.

More than 500 Ambulance Victoria staff were furloughed at the time, with SES and Lifesaving Victoria used to help keep up with demand.

Originally published as Code orange declared for Ambulance Victoria as system struggles