Today the Victorian Ambulance Union (VAU) was present when the Victorian State Budget for the 2022/23 financial year was handed down by the Victorian Government. There is a significant focus on the health system. An additional $12 billion has been allocated to the Victorian health system.

Ambulance services have dealt with unprecedented strain over the past three years due to the pandemic. Prior to that ambulance response times had been the best they had ever been. The VAU have been advocating to Government to look beyond simply recruiting more paramedics but to focus on the areas in the health system that are stopping our members from performing their role such as hospital ramping and responding to non-urgent cases.

Funding commitments specific to our members include but are not limited to:

  • 400 additional ESTA call-takers and dispatchers
  • 90 additional paramedics on top of the 700 already recruited
  • An additional Mobile Stroke Unit running from Monash Hospital
  • Funding of initiatives to prevent ambulance ramping and initiatives from the Medical Emergency Response Taskforce (which includes the VAU) to reduce demand on ambulance services
  • $8 million to deliver the recommendations of the VEOHRC review into AV
  • $99 million towards ‘back of house’ rostering, support, fleet.

Other areas of health which will have a flow on effect to ambulance include but are not limited to:

  • A new Melton Hospital
  • Expansion of emergency departments at Casey and Werribee Mercy
  • 7000 new health workers including 5000 nurses
  • $300 million for regional health
  • $500 million for a new Barwon Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
  • $698 million to Better at Home program which treats patients in the home after hospital discharge (this is aimed at speeding up emergency department and hospital discharge and reduce ramping)
  • 300 new psychologists, 100 new psychiatrists, 400 mental health nurses
  • $195 million for a new Goulburn Valley mental health facility
  • $2.4 billion into funding more emergency hospital staff

We are pleased to see targeted investment in more AV and ESTA staff. But most importantly there is a strong focus on the broader issues in the health system that lead to our member being unable to finish their shift, unable to have a meal break and unable to respond to emergency patients.

The increased spending on ESTA to recruit 400 more call-takers and dispatchers is welcome. But there is further work to do on the call-taking system as well as the expansion and integration of referral pathways to ensure ambulances are not being sent to low acuity cases that don’t require emergency medical treatment.

We are pleased to see funding targeted towards the broader system in areas that affect ambulance and patient transport services. The recruitment of more ambulance workers alone does not improve the situation if they spend their shift ramped at hospital or being used as a taxi. It’s our members telling us that they want to be more productive, they want to get out there and save lives. So a focus on reducing ramping is very welcome.

The expanded Better at Home program is an excellent initiative and it’s the type of innovation we need. Better care of patients in the home after hospital discharge reduces the likelihood of follow-up ambulance calls. These initiatives free up ambulances to respond to emergency cases.

The VAU will be meeting with the State Government over coming weeks to discuss further funding commitments. There will be more to report back to VAU members in coming weeks. However, we are pleased that the budget takes aim at many of the areas which where the VAU have been advocating.