Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Ambulance services


Ambulance services

Mr BATTIN (Gembrook) (14:09): My question is to the Minister for Ambulance Services. On 24 May Glenis Coucaud, an 80-year-old woman, sustained serious injuries from a fall at Fountain Gate cinemas. An ambulance was called. Glenys lay where she fell, attended by cinema staff, for more than 4 hours. Moviegoers passed in and returned out of movies, with Glenis still lying there in pain. Eventually her family took her to hospital as hours later overworked paramedics were still not able to get to Fountain Gate. Can the minister explain how a situation like this is acceptable—that an 80-year-old woman who sustained a fractured cheek, a laceration to her eye socket and severe bruising to her clavicle, shoulder, femur and fibula was unable to get the care she needed when she needed it?

Mr FOLEY (Albert Park—Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services, Minister for Equality) (14:09): Can I thank the member for Gembrook for his question. I am sure I speak for not only all honourable members here but all Victorians when I clearly acknowledge that in the circumstances that the honourable member has relayed those sorts of circumstances are unacceptable to any government, community member or indeed family. Indeed in terms of the specifics I am not privy to the particulars that the honourable member refers to, and it is not actually clear from what the honourable member has presented whether that is an issue relating to the 000 ESTA call-outs or indeed, once it has gone through that system, the dispatch processes.

Regardless of where that issue falls, whether it is in the Minister for Emergency Services portfolio of responsibilities or my portfolio of responsibilities, the issue is how that happens. But what we do know is that this is a government that, when it has been faced with ambulance services that have had, quarter on quarter, one after the other, the busiest demand in their history, in an environment whereby it came into the pandemic after record investments in our ambulance service, had the highest—84 per cent—and best response times for code 1 since records were introduced and certainly much higher than the previous record lows when those opposite had the benches. Since that time of course we have seen a global pandemic that has seen huge demand and that has continued to increase quarter on quarter to the point where we now have record demand on our ambulance service and indeed record numbers of calls—more than doubling—to ESTA and the 000 emergency ambulance service line. This is in the context of a one-in-100-year global pandemic that has had to see mechanisms imposed whereby ambulance services, paramedics and the entire health ecology introduced new systems of infection prevention and control measures that in that combination of events have applied untold pressure, which is why this government has doubled the investment in ambulance services as a result of that. This is why we have opened, not closed, ambulance services across the state—for instance, in the honourable Leader of the Opposition’s seat in most recent times. This is why we will work with our paramedics rather than declare war on them and resolve these issues, as challenging as they may be.

Mr BATTIN (Gembrook) (14:13): Glenis’s daughter, a nurse, has said:

She could’ve had a bleed on her brain … we really didn’t know but we felt we had no choice but to drive her because she was in a lot of pain and we had no idea when an ambulance would arrive.

When Glenis was taken to hospital, she was forced to wait an additional 10 hours at the Dandenong and then Monash hospitals, one of which had her outside in a tent. Glenis was eventually seen at 5.30 am, 14 hours after her fall. Why are Victorians being forced to drive their loved ones to hospital because the government has allowed a crisis to develop in our overworked ambulance and health systems?

Members interjecting.

The SPEAKER: Order! When the house comes to order. The member for Gembrook is warned. The member for Gembrook will come to order.

Mr FOLEY (Albert Park—Minister for Health, Minister for Ambulance Services, Minister for Equality) (14:14): Can I thank the member for Gembrook for his supplementary question. At the heart of the honourable member’s supplementary question is a profound error. The notion that you ignore at the heart of this—that there has been a one-in-100-year global pandemic that has reshaped the entire landscape of our health services—is a serious flaw of those opposite.

In regard to how services are delivered in an infection prevention and control safe way in line with clinical advice, I would refer those opposite to our public health officials’ published advice on how these matters are dealt with. In regard to how we get out of this, it is by a $12 billion pandemic healthcare response plan that invests record amounts in people, systems and infrastructure rather than cutting them.