PATIENTS are waiting longer for paramedics to reach them in small south-west towns despite ambulance response times improving for Warrnambool and other regional centres.
Latest figures show response times have gone backwards, with patients waiting for nearly 30 minutes in Port Fairy, Terang, Camperdown and Colac.
The statistics for January to June last year reveal mixed performance results.
Ambulances reached emergencies faster in Warrnambool, Hamilton and Portland, but taking country patients to major regional centres rather than the closest hospitals is blamed for lagging times in smaller towns.
Camperdown topped a list of waiting times provided to The Standard by the state opposition under the Freedom of Information Act.
Paramedics took up to 35 minutes to respond to code one emergencies in 90 per cent of cases.
Two paramedics and a team of community volunteer officers serve Camperdown, which has a population of 3463.
Patients in Port Fairy waited up to 29 minutes but only up to 18 minutes in Warrnambool.
Ambulance Employees Association (AEA) secretary Steve McGhie called on the state government to provide small towns with extra resources if ambulances continued to travel to city emergency departments.
“The workload has increased in those towns,” Mr McGhie said. “Terang only has two paramedics and they’re also supported by community volunteers.”
Ambulance Victoria (AV) has pointed to better survival rates among patients who are transported to larger hospitals.
AV Barwon South West regional manager Mick Cameron said hospitals in Warrnambool and Hamilton were better equipped to deal with emergencies.
“While it can take us longer, our research shows that it improves their outcome and in the case of cardiac arrest our survival rates have more than doubled in rural Victoria since 2008,” he said. “Over the past few years we have added a number of new resources including a MICA single responder unit at Warrnambool, upgraded our branches at Hamilton and Portland to 24 hours on shift crewing.”
Statistics for winter are often higher due to peak demand because of winterrelated illnesses
State Opposition health spokesman Wade Noonan used the figures to show that response times had increased since the Coalition came to power.
Response times are measured both by averages but also a 90th percentile — which is stated by the Victorian auditor general to be when patients can most expect an ambulance to arrive.