Ambulance Victoria have begged residents to stop calling them if they do not have an emergency, after experiencing a huge workload on Monday night.
There were delays of more than 100 cases as calls came racing in, leaving paramedics with a workload they likened to an outbreak of thunderstorm asthma.
Ambulance Victoria said the extremely high demand meant the most urgent and critically unwell patients received timely care, but there were delays for those who did not have a life-threatening illness.
“A high number of non-urgent calls this evening has meant we have prioritised our ambulances for the most critically unwell Victorians,” the service tweeted.
The series of tweets reminded people to call NURSE ON CALL (1300 606024) or visit their GP if it’s not an emergency.
“Our number one priority is to always provide care to the sickest Victorians who require lifesaving assistance,” it said.
Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill likened the overnight demand to “almost like thunderstorm asthma workload”.
Mr Hill said more than 100 cases waited to be dispatched as a result of the Code Red being declared.
“It is quite rare,” he said.
“It can lead to some very urgent delays which can have a detrimental effect on the patient.
“So far early this morning I haven’t heard of what sort of effect that would have had on any individual patients. But those are certainly questions I’ll be asking Ambulance Victoria.”
Mr Hill said there had been a “massive spike” in the workload recently, with a major factor behind it driven by patients who have not seen their normal health professional during COVID-19, either because they may not have been comfortable or weren’t able to.
“What we’re seeing is a lot of medical conditions getting somewhat out of control to the point where it could’ve been a condition that might’ve easily been treated a bit more proactively months earlier,” he said.
“They’re waiting until things reach crisis point before calling.
“That really does have a negative effect on the system.”
Services returned to normal about 1am.
Mr Hill said paramedics worked through meal breaks and were breaking down in tears due to pressure.
“I’ve had a few very desperate just emotionally just exhausted. They’ve had the year from hell. And then you have this workload spike coming to the end of it,” he said.
“Unfortunately we need them all in the workplace. This workload issue isn’t going to go away.”
He said sick leave among paramedics was quite high due to exhaustion and this had a flow-on effect across the system.