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Long waits persist for Victorian ambulances, surgery

One ambulance arrived at the clinic with a fake patient during the minister's visit.

One ambulance arrived at the clinic with a fake patient during the minister's visit. Photo: AAP

Pressure on Victoria’s public health system is easing but people still face long waits for ambulances, planned surgery and dentistry.

The Victorian Agency for Health Information on Wednesday released its latest data for the July to September quarter.

Health and Ambulance Services Minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the system was on the “road to recovery” after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is always more work to be done. I’m not calling time on the end of reform,” she told reporters.

Ambulance Victoria responded to 96,594 high priority and time-critical code one cases, marking its fourth busiest quarter on record.

Some 66 per cent of code ones were responded to within the statewide target of 15 minutes.

It was an improvement from the previous quarter (61.7 per cent) and the same time last year (64.3 per cent) but still well below the 85 per cent benchmark.

On average, Victorians waited 15 minutes and 12 seconds for a response to a code one emergency.

Thomas defended the ambulance response times, declaring they wouldn’t return to pre-pandemic levels overnight.

“I will not stop until we reach those targets again,” she said.

About 36.5 per cent of patients waited more than 40 minutes to be offloaded from their ambulance into an emergency department, compared to 38.3 per cent at the end of June.

Ambulance Victoria’s executive director of clinical operations Anthony Carlyon said ramping remained a source of frustration for paramedics.

“It is pressure for us but it’s good to see some improvement,” he said.

“We’re cautious in relation to that optimism.”

There were 470,798 presentations managed by Victorian emergency departments last quarter.

The median wait time for emergency department patients is 16 minutes, down from 23 minutes at the same time last year.

The number of Victorians on the planned surgery waiting list has fallen from 71,320 to 68,941 over the past quarter.

There had been a 22 per cent reduction in the planned surgery waiting list since the Victorian government unveiled a $1.5 billion COVID catch-up plan in April 2022, Thomas said.

But more people are waiting for urgent category one surgery – up from 2393 to 2770 over the past three months.

More than one in five planned surgery patients were not treated within the recommended time frame.

The average overdue wait time for non-urgent category three procedures rose marginally to 331 days.

Victorians seeking general dental care within the public system were waiting 16.4 months on average.

– AAP

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