Tuesday, 20 December 2022




Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (19:19): There were six matters that were raised for other ministers, and I will pass them on. I would like to deal with the matter that Ms Bath raised tonight. Thank you for raising that, Ms Bath. At the outset, it is not actually a matter that you would raise for the Minister for Emergency Services, and I will explain why. The call takers at ESTA are doing an amazing job smashing their benchmarks at the moment, answering more than 90 per cent of their calls in under 5 seconds – a 95 per cent answered call rate in November.

The system is a vastly different system to what we were experiencing as a result of pressures from the pandemic, say, 12 months ago. It is an amazing workforce. I have spent a lot of time out there. When you call 000 and you explain that you need an ambulance it is clinical decisions that decide whether an ambulance is despatched or not, and those clinical decisions are based on codes that determine the response that is required. So a code 1 is cardiac emergency, lights and sirens, ambulance always dispatched. When it comes down more to injuries and things that are not necessarily life-threatening – although I acknowledge the pain and suffering that your constituents obviously were under – it comes back to a decision that is made from a very precise script and a very precise set of criteria that the call taker would put into a system. Then it goes to a clinical expert, such as a paramedic or a nurse, who returns the call, and the callers every single time – because I listened every time there – are told to call back if the condition gets any worse or if they see any deterioration in the condition. If somebody is on their own and not with somebody that can look after them, it might change the code response as well. So it is not the call takers that make that determination; it is the set of criteria that is decided by Ambulance Victoria based on clinical advice. So the question that you have asked is actually about your concern about whether a broken leg should have a lights-and-sirens approach or it should not. They are clinical decisions that will be made by a paramedic or a nurse, which is solely a decision of Ambulance Victoria, not ESTA. ESTA’s response is informed by that.

Having said that, how about I get a written response for your constituents that outlines all of this so that they can understand when ambulances are code 1 down to I think it is about code 7 and that there is constant contact with people that are seeking emergency assistance so that ambulances are not dispatched to low-level incidents, which of course can mean that they are not available for immediate cardiac arrests and respiratory issues and the like. I can get all of that written into much more plain English than I have gone through tonight, written by the people that are experts in this field, that really sets out and explains how calls are taken and when ambulances are dispatched and when they are not.

The PRESIDENT: The house stands adjourned. Everyone have a great break.

House adjourned 7:23 pm until Tuesday 7 February 2023.