Paramedics broke down in tears and skipped meal breaks during a “massive spike” in cases across Melbourne on Monday, the Ambulance Union says.
Ambulance Victoria issued an alert shortly before 9pm on Monday, warning of “extremely high demand” for ambulances across the city.
The organisation has not detailed what people sought help for, but that “there were longer wait times than usual for patients not suffering a life-threatening illness”.
“This is a timely reminder to all Victorians to stay on top of their health this summer as the weather warms up and many of us re-emerge from Stage 3 and 4 restrictions,” Ambulance Victoria said on Tuesday.
The service said the most urgent and critically unwell patients were reached in a timely manner. Ambulance services returned to normal after midnight.
But Victorian Ambulance Union secretary Danny Hill said Monday night was one of the busiest nights for paramedics in 12 months.
“There was a massive spike in cases, at one point there were over 100 cases in the pending category, meaning a call’s been taken and it’s been deemed they need an ambulance,” he said.
“A lot of it seems to be that a lot of people haven’t been going to see their GP, either they haven’t been able to get in to see them, they haven’t been taking patients, or due to COVID they’ve kept at home.”
Mr Hill said paramedics were feeling the strain of a difficult year
“We do feel that there is a shortage of paramedics, the paramedics have been working right the way through the better part of the year through the COVID environment, they’ve been wearing full PPE and they’re just exhausted, emotionally and physically exhausted and fatigued,” he said.
“There just needs to be enough paramedics in the system to weather that and cope with that because there’s nothing really special about last night, there was no thunderstorm asthma that we know of, just a really big spike in workload.
“For many of them, they might have to come and do it all over again tonight and I can tell you that’s a very hard thing to do to front up after you’ve had that sort of night.”