Victorians are accustomed to being able to rely on the emergency (triple zero) call service for help from police, fire and ambulance in life-threatening situations. They are used to calling triple zero and being rapidly connected to the most appropriate emergency service in seconds.
ESTA – the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority – provides Victoria’s triple zero call-taking and dispatch services. This includes emergency ambulance calls.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic challenged all aspects of society, including placing all parts of Victoria’s health system under strain. ESTA faced challenges in managing record-breaking volumes of emergency calls, particularly for ambulance events.
In late 2021 the level of calls grew to a point where ESTA was taking longer than the five second target time to answer most emergency calls – at times more than 10 minutes – damaging the public’s confidence in the system, and placing the community at risk.
IGEM’s Review of Victoria's emergency ambulance call answer performance examines and assesses both ESTA’s and the broader emergency management sector’s planning and preparedness for a major surge in emergency ambulance calls due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The review also examines how the sector responded to the surge in emergency ambulance calls, the effectiveness of its response, and collaborative efforts to address the challenges.
Sadly, the review highlights how the surge in calls affected the community. It provides insights into the real experiences of individuals who in some cases experienced extremely long delays during life-threatening health emergencies.
It is important to note the actual consequences of degraded call answer and response times may not be clear for some time. It is the role of the Coroners Court of Victoria to determine whether any call answer or response delays were contributing factors to any death.
While the review details missed opportunities and failings in Victoria’s emergency communications system, IGEM found no fault in the vital and skilful work of call-takers and dispatchers.
As part of this review, IGEM has made 42 findings and eight recommendations that present opportunities for improvement. It also includes nine observations that acknowledge recommendations contained within the ESTA Capability and Service Review (External link) conducted by Graham Ashton AM APM.
The Review of Victoria's emergency ambulance call answer performance - COVID-19 pandemic-related 000 demand surge was published on 3 September 2022. The report is available in PDF format from the link below or you can view as a flipbook (External link)
Victorian Government response
On 3 September 2022, the Victorian Government responded to IGEM's Review of Victoria’s Emergency Ambulance Call Answer Performance, accepting the findings and supporting-in-principle the review's eight recommendations.
The review provides critical insights into Victoria's preparedness for and response to the COVID-19 pandemic and opportunities for continuous improvement.
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