Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews needs to ‘front up’ over state’s triple-zero system

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Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy has called on Premier Daniel Andrews to “front up” over the “human tragedy” in the state’s triple-zero emergency system.

A damning report by the Inspector-General Emergency Management Inspector-General Tony Pearce found the speed that the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) was answering calls at had “fallen below community and government expectations”.

Mr Pearce identified 40 “potential adverse events” from December 2020 to May 2022 where seriously ill and injured patients had to wait for an ambulance while there triple-zero calls were delayed.

From those incidents, 33 people died.

“This does not necessarily mean that call answer delay was a contributing factor, because in some cases no amount of rapid intervention would have saved the patient,” Mr Pearce said.

“It‘s not possible for me to conclude as to whether or not the call answer delay impacted upon the final outcome for those individuals. Only the coroner can do that.

“What it does mean is that due to these call answer delays, the community waited longer to receive important first-aid advice, and paramedics had less time to apply advanced treatment in time to make a difference to the patient’s outcome.

“To the families and friends of the people that are involved in these terrible events, I apologise.”

Mr Guy said his heart broke for the patients and their families who were put through those “terrifying” situations.

“My heartbreaks for the families who have lost loved ones as a result of triple-zero delays,” he said on Sunday.

“No one should be in the terrifying circumstance of calling triple-zero and it either ringing out or just no one showing up.”

He said the state government had failed at its “core business” and most important responsibility, which was guaranteeing the safety of Victorians.

“I cannot understand what other function is there for government, particularly state government, then to provide a health system and an ambulance network that works when people need it,” Mr Guy said.

“That is their core business. If it can‘t do its core business, then we’ve got a real problem with the government.”

Mr Guy said Mr Andrews could not hide and needed to answer questions over the way his government had handled the situation.

“I think the Premier needs to front up. The Premier can’t just pretend this is a PR issue and not turn up and not answer questions,” he said.

“People have lost their lives, and they‘ve lost their lives due to incompetence and bad management … not through a lack of hard work by ambos or by those at triple-zero, they’re under resourced.

“There is no amount of hiding or obfuscating or trying to get around this, the Premier’s got to explain what’s happened here.”

“He runs the government … he‘s got to answer for why 33 people died.”

The Victorian government has also been criticised for how the report was released, which was done on a Saturday during the start of the AFL final series.

Mr Guy called the timing of the release “horrendously insensitive”.

“It‘s horrendously insensitive by government, it puts PR first over human tragedy,” he said.

On reasons behind the delays, Mr Pearce noted in his report there has been “unprecedented demand” on the ESTA due to the Covid pandemic.

“The fact that the system was just not able to cope with what it was being presented with was the worst finding for me,” he said.

“Significant declines in ESTA‘s emergency ambulance triple-zero answer times were identified from December 2020 with the most significant degradation correlating with increasing peaks during the Covid pandemic surge.

“Ambulance call activity increased beyond historical highs and emergency calls queued for unacceptable lengths.”

Originally published as Matthew Guy calls out Daniel Andrews over ‘human tragedy’ in Victoria’s triple-zero system


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