Tuesday, 21 February 2023

Questions without notice and ministers statements

Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority

Georgie CROZIER, Jaclyn SYMES

Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority

Georgie CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (12:24): (37) My question is to the Minister for Emergency Services. Minister, recently a medical specialist came to the aid of a 90-year-old man who had fallen in his home and fractured his femur. The specialist called 000 and requested an ambulance. An ESTA staff member informed him that they would not be dispatching an ambulance and that a nurse or paramedic would phone back later to decide whether an ambulance would be required. After identifying himself as a medical specialist and reiterating the urgency of the situation, he requested to be transferred to a nurse or paramedic. This request was refused, with the explanation that it was ‘not protocol’ and he was transferred to a generic recorded message. Minister, why is this protocol in place, denying an ambulance for an elderly Victorian with a serious injury?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:25): I thank Ms Crozier for her question. At the outset, it is not a protocol that ambulances are not dispatched for people in emergency situations. That is just a blatant falsehood that you have just provided to the house. I have answered similar questions to this in the past. How ESTA works is that the call taker accepts the call, and they are informed by a set of guidelines, protocols and advice which are informed by medical experts, by paramedics and the like. They are regularly updated in response to advice from those experts.

It is very difficult for me to respond to the specifics of your question, because I do not know the detail, but what I can tell you is that it is appropriate to have guidelines and protocols that are informed by medical experts about when ambulances should be dispatched. It is not for me to determine the medical severity of an incident; that is informed by people that know what they are doing in this space. Not every person will have an ambulance sent to them when they call 000 requesting one; that is based on the need and the advice that they are provided. As I said, I am not across the details of that specific case. I can make some inquiries, but I think what I will be able to provide you is that it was handled in accordance with appropriate processes.

Georgie CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (12:27): I look forward to receiving that information so I can pass it on. He did write to your colleagues and also the Premier, so perhaps they have the information as well. Minister, the medical specialist in this case was concerned that the recorded message contained generic and potentially inappropriate advice. If a medical specialist has no confidence in the 000 system and is concerned for patient welfare, how can Victorians have confidence they will get the appropriate response from 000 in a medical emergency?

Jaclyn SYMES (Northern Victoria – Attorney-General, Minister for Emergency Services) (12:27): Ms Crozier, the ESTA workforce is one of the most amazing workforces that I have ever come across. They are dedicated every day to getting out of bed and into one of the most challenging workplaces, where they are dealing with helping Victorians who are often experiencing very traumatic circumstances. They are driven to help people. They are a workforce that we have supported significantly in recent times due to impacts of COVID, and that has been well canvassed in this place. This workforce is smashing all of its benchmarks at the moment. They are responding to Victorians.

Georgie Crozier interjected.

Jaclyn SYMES: They are smashing their targets at the moment, absolutely. And when it comes to the medical and clinical decisions, that is not a matter for politicians. That is a matter for the experts that inform the service.