News State Victoria News Victorian triple-zero service to be overhauled

Victorian triple-zero service to be overhauled

Ambulance Victoria
Ambulance Victoria is winding back its reliance on non-paramedics called in to help during COVID. Photo: AAP
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Victoria’s triple zero call service will be rebranded and brought under government control after fissures were exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The long-awaited report into the ailing Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, led by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Graham Ashton, was released by the state government on Thursday.

The review found emergency service organisations have expressed concerns with various aspects of ESTA’s capability and service delivery.

“The range of concerns were considerable and generally stemmed from a view that ESTA does not move to address issues with sufficient speed, is not responsive to ESO (emergency service organisation) needs … and that communication with ESTA was difficult and often ineffective,” it said.

For many years, ESTA’s call taking and dispatch (CTD) service has faced problems with recruitment and retention of staff and fixed-term funding.

“As a result, the capacity and capability of this service has eroded. The situation has been exacerbated, over the past two years, by the increase in CTD demand created by COVID-19 and the increase in significant emergency events, such as storms, floods and bushfires,” the report said.

“A lack of experienced CTD staff has resulted in ESTA’s CTD service being driven by workforce availability, rather than by Victorian community demand for its services.”

The report said ESTA was unable to meet demand during the significant storm events in 2021 and throughout peak periods in the COVID-19 pandemic, citing staff resourcing difficulties.

“Although the latter event is considered unprecedented, these are the types of surge events where ESTA’s aggregated model should have delivered an exceptional and co-ordinated emergency response,” it said.

The report said emergency service organisations expressed frustration with ESTA’s capability to manage an “ever-growing list” of computer aided dispatch system change requests and “significant delays continue to occur”.

“At the extreme end of the spectrum, one ESO noted during consultation that they are yet to have a change delivered that was requested over 10 years ago,” the report said.

The report makes 20 recommendations, including moving ESTA into Department of Justice and Community Safety and rebadging it as “Triple Zero Victoria”.

The government has accepted all in principal – work is already underway on five – and committed to hiring and training 400 ESTA staff in this year’s state budget.

Work will start on bringing ESTA into the Department of Justice.

“We’ll continue to work closely with ESTA, ESOs, unions, workers and the sector to make sure we get these reforms right,” Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said.