Busy winter season for Illawarra paramedics

Around one third of the most critically ill or injured Illawarra patients waited more than 10 minutes for an ambulance in the past quarter according to new figures.

The region’s paramedics were called to 458 patients in the life-threatening priority 1A ambulance (P1A) category from July to September according to the latest Bureau of Health Information Healthcare Quarterly report.

That’s a 55 per cent increase in these most urgent cases compared to the same quarter in 2016, when paramedics responded to 295 P1A cases.

BHI acting chief executive Dr Kim Sutherland said it was a busy winter season for ambulance services across NSW, including the Illawarra.

‘’The median response time for these life-threatening cases for the Illawarra zone was 8.1 minutes – just above the state average of 7.7 minutes,’’ she said.

‘’The percentage of these patients that had a response time within 10 minutes was 68 per cent – compared to the NSW figure of 70.6.’’

In the last quarter Illawarra paramedics also responded to 9433 priority one, or emergency, patients. Response times ranged from 12 to 24 minutes – with a median response of 12.4 minutes. This was slightly above the state median of 11.6 minutes.

Meantime 8711 priority two patients waited between 17 to 42 minutes for an ambulance response. The median response was 17.1 minutes, which fell below the 19.1 minute statewide median.

Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes said the report showed that the government needed to increase funding for ambulance services.

“Ambulance response times in the Illawarra are unacceptably long,’’ he said. ‘’Governing is about priorities and clearly the Liberals believe squandering billions on Sydney stadium upgrades is more important than a properly staffed ambulance service for the Illawarra.’’

Wollongong MP Paul Scully added: ‘’These figures come on the back of concerns being expressed in the ambulance service about vehicle and staffing numbers and are another sign of a pressure point in the system.’’