Nation-leading ambulance response time improvements

SA Gov

South Australia has experienced the most significant improvements of any jurisdiction in ambulance response times in the past year, according to the Productivity Commission’s latest national report card.

The Report on Government Services 2022-2023 released last night shows that average ambulance response times in metropolitan Adelaide improved 22 per cent under Labor’s first year in government with SA Ambulance Service responding to 90 per cent of all incidents within 55.6 minutes – compared to 71.3 minutes the year before – which is more than 15 minutes quicker.

This improvement was achieved despite SAAS receiving 3.1 per cent more Triple Zero (000) calls. Impressively, the rate of calls answered in 10 seconds improved to 95.5 per cent – South Australia’s highest performance in a decade.

Ambulance response times have improved considerably since the Malinauskas Labor Government was elected, compared to previous years when waiting times for ambulances became significantly longer.

The report also shows the Malinauskas Government’s increased investment in SAAS with $109.9 million in additional government funding in 2022-23. This compares to the previous Liberal Government which cut funding to SAAS by $13 million in its first two years.

The Malinauskas Labor Government has put more than 170 extra ambos on the road and hired more than 550 additional front-line staff.

Ambulance response times have continued to improve even after the timeframe of this report, with the most recent data from December 2023 the highest percentage of Priority 1 and 2 cases seen on time in the past three years.

The report further highlights the continued national crisis in primary health care which is placing extra pressure on our hospitals.

SA experienced the highest rate in the nation of people waiting 24 hours or more for a GP appointment for urgent medical care – 55.8 per cent in 2022-23, up from 45 per cent in 2021-22.

This is the first time that the majority of South Australians who need urgent GP care have been waiting more than 24 hours.

South Australia had the highest number of people on the mainland who believed they waited longer than was acceptable to get a GP appointment at 32.8 per cent, a significant increase from 24.6 per cent the year before.

Federal government expenditure on GPs in SA decreased by $58.9m, from $811.4m in 2021-22 to $752.5m in 2022-23. This is also down nationally – per person expenditure on GPs decreased from $449.10 in 2021-22 to $410.30 in 2022-23.

The rate of people in SA who delayed or did not see a GP due to cost increased to 4.6 per cent in 2022-23 compared with 2.9 per cent in 2021-22.

And this led to potentially avoidable GP-type presentations to emergency departments rising in South Australia to 184,519 from 177,489 in 2021-22, the only state to see an increase.

South Australians are waiting the longest times in the country to enter aged care beds and receive home care aged care packages.

South Australians wait the longest in the country for receiving a home care package following Aged Care Assessment Team approval, with the 90th percentile at 193 days. Our median wait time for entry into an aged care bed following ACAT approval is the highest in the nation at 252 days.

This has an inevitable impact upon patients stuck in public hospital beds waiting for aged care beds, contributing to bed blockages.

The rate of hospital patient days used by eligible South Australians waiting for aged care beds was 19.7 bed days in 2021-22 – the second highest rate in Australia and an increase from 18.1 bed days the year prior.

As put by Chris Picton

It’s welcome to see improvements in ambulance response times in our first year which we know are a direct result of our investments in our ambulance service.

They stand in stark contrast to the Liberals’ shameful record where in a life-threatening emergency, there was a two in three chance the ambulance would not turn up on time.

Now, thanks to the investments the Malinauskas Labor Government has made, there’s a two in three chance the ambulance will arrive on time.

This year we will open more than 150 inpatient beds across our hospitals to further improve patient flow.

We are flat out rebuilding the health system – hiring the ambos, doctors, nurses and building the critical infrastructure needed across the health system. But we know we have more to do.

We also must continue our work with the Federal Government on national health reform given this report spells out clearly the impact of the shortage of GPs and aged care on the health system in South Australia.

When people can’t get access to a GP, many of them will get sicker and need emergency care. When people can’t get access to an aged care bed, many of them will get stuck in hospital and mean it isn’t available for the next patient who needs it.

Since this data, the Federal Government has brought in Urgent Care Clinics and bulk billing incentives which we are hopeful will see improvements to accessibility of primary care.

As put by SAAS Chief Executive Officer Rob Elliott

Every day our staff strive to provide exceptional and timely emergency care to their communities. I am incredibly proud of their efforts and the hard work that they have put in to achieve such a significant turnaround.

While it is pleasing to see improvements in response times which mean that we are getting to the most urgent patients on time, we will continue to drive improvement.

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