Illawarra paramedics reached around six in 10 emergency cases within the target 15 minutes from April to June, according to new figures.
The ambulance response was quickest in the Wollongong statistical area (Helensburgh to Wollongong) where 66.5 per cent of P1 or emergency cases were reached in the timeframe, up 6.1 percentage points on the same quarter in 2019.
There was an 11 percentage point rise in response times in the Dapto/ Port Kembla area in the recent quarter - with 61.9 per cent of emergency cases reached within 15 minutes.
And from Shellharbour to Kiama, 63.9 per cent of P1 cases were seen within 15 minutes; up 10.5 percentage points.
Paramedics responded to 11,376 call-outs from Helensburgh to Kiama from April to June, the latest Bureau of Health Information report shows. That's 10 per cent less than for the same quarter in 2019.
It follows a statewide trend, with 270,564 ambulance responses recorded across NSW in the 2020 quarter - down nearly 40,000 or 12.7 per cent on the 2019 figures.
"The number of ambulance responses declined in late March and early April," BHI chief executive Dr Diane Watson said.
"There was then a steady increase to the end of June, though responses in the last week of June were still down more than 10 per cent compared with the same week in 2019."
NSW Ambulance Assistant Commissioner Peter Payne said the quarter reflected the tight movement restrictions and other challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This quarter we experienced unprecedented changes to the way we go about our daily lives, with our movements heavily impacted," Assistant Commissioner Payne said.
"This has affected everyone we know, our workmates, our families and has changed everything we do as members of the community.
"... Our priority remains the safety of our staff and patients and as such we took every precaution possible to protect their health and well-being."
A NSW Ambulance spokesman paid tribute to local paramedics.
"In the face of a global pandemic, NSW Ambulance response times in the Illawarra have remained consistent and even slightly improved, a testament to the hard work of our staff," he said.
In the Wollongong area, where paramedics responded to 4678 call-outs, waiting times improved markedly.
The median wait for emergency cases was 10.7 minutes, down an entire minute on the same period last year. Those with urgent cases waited a median 15.6 minutes, a decrease of 2.3 minutes.
In Dapto/ Port Kembla, there were 3360 call-outs while Kiama/ Shellharbour recorded 3338 ambulance responses.
In both areas, emergency patients waited a median of around 11.5 minutes - down by over one minute on previous figures.
Across the region, the median ambulance response time for the most critically ill or injured patients, classed as P1A high priority, was just under eight minutes.
However Health Services Union national president Gerard Hayes said the three months were "an aberration" and said fewer responses didn't equate with less stress for paramedics working through a pandemic.
"While demand for emergency response has held up, fewer people have called ambulances for non-urgent conditions," he said.
"During this period, the stress on paramedics has not let up. Assaults in hospitals have increased and paramedics have also dealt with the anxiety of protecting themselves and their families against COVID."
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