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Victoria’s hospital system under pressure, ambulances forced to queue outside

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Victoria’s hospital system is coming under immense strain as the state’s COVID-19 cases continue to climb.

Victoria's hospital system is coming under immense strain as the state's COVID-19 cases continue to climb.

Ambulances have been forced to ramp or queue at Melbourne's Northern Hospital amid a surge in people presenting to the emergency department.

There were up to 17 ambulances either waiting in the street or queued up in the hospital's emergency bays this morning, with about a dozen yesterday, in the region where 50 per cent of the state's COVID-19 cases live.

READ MORE: Restrictions ease slightly in Victoria

Calls to triple-zero surged to a five-year high this week.

There were 362 patients seen at the Northern Hospital's emergency department yesterday, after a record number on Monday night.

Northern Health's acting chief operating officer Debra Bourne said demand on Monday was unprecedented, but it was not uncommon to see a large number of ambulances waiting outside the hospital.

READ MORE: Three charged over alleged hospital brawl in Melbourne

"Last night was unprecedented, we had the highest number of presentations to our ED," she told 9News.

The scenes of waiting ambulances are not unique to the Northern Hospital and are only expected to get worse as COVID-19 restrictions ease.

"What's concerning is just how bad this might get with the coming COVID peak and the effect that might have on the health system," general secretary for the Ambulance Victoria union Danny Hill said.

The strain on the triple-zero call centre has become so large that there have been reports some callers have been put on hold for ten minutes.

Emergency physician Dr Stephen Parnis said emergency department presentations and calls to triple-zero are expected to surge as Victoria continues to record hundreds of coronavirus cases a day.

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"Unfortunately this is an indication that a system that's always under stress - we call it access block - is getting worse because the numbers of COVID cases are increasing pretty dramatically," he told Today.

"They present to hospital and they make it very difficult to provide the care, not just for COVID patients, but for everything else as well."

An Ambulance Victoria spokesperson said the pandemic continued to have an "unprecedented impact" on health systems, ambulances and emergency departments.

"Where there are delays in accessing emergency departments, paramedics continue to provide high-quality care to patients," the spokesperson said.

"Our staff are working extremely hard to manage the increasing demand while prioritising care to the sickest Victorians."

READ MORE: Victoria's roadmaps out of lockdown revealed

In a statement, the Northern Hospital said it was taking longer for the hospital to receive patients in the Emergency Department as they had to screen them for COVID-19 first.

The hospital currently has 65 COVID-19 patients.

"We work really well with Ambulance Victoria on providing patients with the care they need," a hospital spokesperson said.

"We ask our community to continue to work with us by keeping our Emergency Department for emergencies only.

"Many people attending do not require emergency care."

Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/national/coronavirus-victoria-hospital-system-under-pressure-as-ambulances-forced-to-queue-northern-hospital/c581160c-af41-43dc-a715-2a18b4e87e6c

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