St John WA has alerted Perth residents of more ambulance delays as paramedics experience ‘extremely high’ levels of demand.
At 2.45pm on Friday, St John issued a public alert warning to residents telling them response times would be impacted.
“It is likely there will be a delay in an ambulance reaching people who call Triple Zero,” the alert stated.
The ambulance provider issued similar alerts in May.
As of Friday about 15 ambulances or 22 per cent of the St John fleet in metropolitan Perth was ramped.
“The State Operations Centre is receiving call volumes in excess of 40 calls per hour, and we are at about seven per cent standby capacity,” the alert revealed.
The public messaging is part of the ‘ambulance escalation plan’ during the COVID-19 pandemic and had been an unprecedented step from the provider earlier this year but has since become a trend.
St John has reminded the community of the available non-emergency care options, including Healthdirect, local GPs or Urgent Care Centres and the 13COVID helpline.
“Our priority is to provide care to Western Australians who require life-saving assistance,” a spokeswoman said.
Shadow Health Minister Libby Mettam described the continued ambulance ramping crisis in WA as “damning”.
“The McGowan Government continues to put lives at risk by failing to ensure our hospitals are properly resourced,” the Liberal Vasse MP said.
“Despite boasts of the highest surplus ever, of any jurisdiction, it’s damning that the McGowan Government’s continuing crisis in our hospitals is leading to these unprecedented alerts from St John.”
A State Government spokeswoman, however, attributed the issue to increased caller demand and furloughed staff, highlighting that ambulance ramping was actually below the escalation threshold.
“The Department of Health and St John have advised ramping is lower than usual and not the reason for issuing this alert, and that ramped crew levels are below the threshold at which St John escalates to a Status Level 2 alert,” she said.
“St John has advised that, due to staff illness separate to COVID furloughing, a shortage of available paramedics has significantly impacted their roster.
“The State Government, through the multi-agency response, with Health, Police and using the support of career firefighters, is doing everything it can to assist St John with this unexpected issue.
“Additionally, our hospitals have been notified of the situation and are doing everything they can to ensure ambulance crews attending hospitals aren’t waiting there any longer than is absolutely necessary.”
WA has been rocked by a string of cardiac deaths this year, which involved long-wait times for ambulances.
St John WA recorded its worst statistics for ambulance ramping in the month of May, just as the State is expected to battle both the tail-end of the pandemic and a resurgent number of flu cases this winter.
The 5130 hours ambulances spent outside hospitals unable to transfer their patients inside was five times the 1011 hours recorded in May 2020 and much higher than the 3834 tallied in May 2021.
The data also revealed a blow-out in waiting times for country hospitals in May, with 107 ramping hours recorded this year — compared to 20 in 2020 but down from 128 in 2021.
It comes as new State ED performance data revealed the lagging response times happened despite an 11 per cent decrease in patient volumes compared with a year ago.
Seventy per cent of patients needing urgent care at WA emergency departments weren’t seen in the recommended 30-minute window in April, despite a surprise fall in hospital presentations.
The biggest impact was on triage 3 patients with potentially life-threatening conditions who are meant to be seen within half an hour — a standard that was only met in 30.9 per cent of cases in April, compared with 43.8 per cent in April 2021.