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Coronavirus Victoria: Army to drive ambulances, triple-zero authority under review

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Victoria’s health system is facing extreme pressure, with defence personnel deployed to drive ambulances and the state’s triple-zero authority under review.

Defence personnel will be deployed to drive ambulances in Victoria as the state’s escalating Covid-19 situation causes demand to surge to record levels.

Ambulance Victoria on Friday morning confirmed that for the first time in the agency’s history two paramedics will no longer be deployed in each ambulance.

In a bid to improve response times, crews would instead be split, and a single paramedic would be joined by a driver from the Australian Defence Force, St John Ambulance Australia, State Emergency Service or student paramedics.

But this will not be the case for every call-out, Ambulance Victoria said.

In the past two weeks Ambulance Victoria also reported four of its five busiest days in history.

It was taking an average of about 50 minutes for people to be offloaded from their stretcher after arriving at hospital, a 20-minute increase from late 2019.

Covid-19 is behind the sudden surge in demand, with more than 15,000 active cases of coronavirus spread out across Victoria and the state posting a national daily record of 1763 infections on Tuesday.

It comes as the Victorian government commissioned a review into the state’s Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA), responsible for delivering triple-zero services.

Minister for emergency services Jaclyn Symes on Friday morning announced the independent review of ESTA’s capability, and would be led by former Victorian Chief Commissioner of Police Graham Ashton.

“Mr Ashton will look at ESTA’s current functions and provide advice to the Government on how to improve ESTA’s capability across several areas,” a state government statement read.

ESTA answered more than 2.8 million calls – one call every 11 seconds – in 2020-21.

More than 1.9 million of those calls came via the triple-zero emergency call service.

The review’s findings and recommendations will be handed down to the government early next year.

There are now about 560 people with Covid-19 in Victorian hospitals, an increase of more than 40 per cent from a week ago.

Originally published as Defence personnel deployed to drive Victorian ambulances amid surge in demand

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