New data covering the months prior to NSW’s Delta outbreak shows that the state’s emergency healthcare system was dangerously overwhelmed before the current crisis, with NSW Ambulance delivering its worst response times in a decade through the April-June quarter.
Bureau of Health Information data, released today, shows the service was already failing on its own performance metrics for emergency responses in the months preceding NSW’s state-wide lockdown.
“This data shows what has been clear to Paramedics all along: the service was under resourced and barely coping well before the Delta outbreak,” said APA (NSW) Assistant Secretary Alan O’Riordan.
“Just 47.9 of priority 1 cases received an ambulance within the 15-minute target time last quarter.
“That shows unambiguously that the service was already failing patients, even by its own internal benchmarks, before the added strain of COVID-19 cases.
“It is cause for genuine alarm that when it comes to the highest priority cases, our ambulance service is failing to meet target response times half the time.”
Priority 1 (emergency) cases include life-threatening conditions such as stroke, cardiac arrests, and car crashes. The April-June quarter saw the slowest median response times (13.4 minutes) and lowest percentage (47.9%) within the 15-minute target window since 2010.
NSW Ambulance also reported the worst figures on record for P2 (urgent) and P1A (highest priority emergency) cases. Just 55.6% of P2 cases received an ambulance within the 30-minute target time.
The union says lagging response times are the result of inadequate resourcing at NSW Ambulance, and poor triaging systems which create unnecessary drain on ambulance resources.
“To pass off our healthcare crisis as a product of the current outbreak is misleading at best.
“For too long, our failing healthcare system has been propped up by a fatigued Paramedic workforce who are asked to work longer hours, under greater pressure, without breaks.
“COVID may have served to highlight the existing issues, but this is fundamentally a crisis of resourcing and management.
“Paramedics have been crying out for years for better services for our communities. We’ve consistently communicated a clear list of demands to NSW Health, including concrete steps like hiring more Paramedics, investing in more specialists such as Extended Care Paramedics, expanding patient transport services to operate 24/7—including in regional communities, and building a secondary triage model that can better utilise NSW’s referral networks.
“This Government has run out of excuses for the current crisis.
“Paramedics are ready to work with them on meaningful solutions. When will they step up?”