Victoria's ambulance service has failed to meet its basic response time targets for highest code emergencies.
The statistics, detailed in Ambulance Victoria's 2012-2013 annual report, tabled in parliament on Thursday, show that 73 per cent of emergency (code 1) incidents were responded to within 15 minutes – the target is 85 per cent.
In places with a population of more than 7500, 78 per cent of ambulances responded to Code 1 calls within 15 minutes – the target is 90 per cent.
In 2008-2009, 82.4 per cent of ambulances were meeting the 15 minute benchmark, and it has decreased ever since. Last year, 74.8 per cent of ambulances met the target.
The report said Ambulance Victoria had experienced an increase in demand last year due to population growth, an ageing population and an increase in people using ambulances instead of other primary health services.
"In some areas, particularly in the rural regions, there has been a decrease in the availability of medical services, meaning people call an ambulance in search of the service they need," the report says.
The report also said the most significant factor delaying ambulances was delays experienced by paramedics in hospital emergency departments.
Ambulance Victoria chairman Just Stoelwinder said the report showed the many challenges the organisation faced.
"Driving these challenges is an inexorable growth in demand for emergency ambulance services by the community, particularly by the ageing population," Professor Stoelwinder said.
He said while additional funding from the government had helped reduce some pressure on the service, its "ability to continue to provide an appropriate timely response to the present broad range of medical emergencies remains challenging."
In terms of quality and safety benchmarks the service performed much better, with clinical practice standards exceeded in all areas.
Meanwhile. Victorian hospital annual reports tabled in parliament today show nearly all emergency departments struggled to take patients from paramedics in a timely manner during the last financial year. This is the key cause of ambulances queueing at hospitals – a problem that is undermining Ambulance Victoria’s ability to respond to new cases.
The reports showed nearly all major metropolitan hospitals failed to meet a government target which asks them to take responsibility for 90 per cent of patients who arrive by ambulance within 40 minutes.
The worst performing hospitals for ambulance transfers were the Northern, Frankston and Austin hospitals, where only 56 to 60 per cent of paitents were transferred from ambulances into hospital within 40 minutes of arriving at the emergency department.
They were followed by the Royal Melbourne and St Vincent’s hospitals where 67 to 69 per cent of patients were handed over within 40 minutes.
The reports also revealed that nearly all major hospitals posted operating surpluses for the financial year to June. The exceptions were Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre with a deficit of $2.4 million, Alfred Health with a deficit of $762,000 and the Royal Women’s Hospital with a deficit of $70,000.
According to the Ambulance Victoria report, 98 per cent of patients were satisfied or very satisfied with the service.
"In 2012-2013, we surpassed our targets on all our key clinical outcomes, including the percentage of adult patients who survive after a ventricular fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia cardiac arrest, with 25.3 per cent of patients surviving to hospital discharge," the report says.
"We estimate about 120 additional cardiac arrest patients in Victoria survived to hospital discharge during the year compared with a decade ago because more effective treatment is now being provided."
Victoria's Labor opposition has hammered the government over a series of incidents in which patients have died or waited unacceptably long periods for ambulances, particularly in rural areas.
Last weekend, four people died from heart attacks in three days - all waited more than 15 minutes for an ambulance.
With Julia Medew