Paramedics and Triple Zero operators ask for people to keep lines free for genuine emergencies

People are being asked to keep Triple Zero line free for genuine emergencies this winter as the state prepares for another busy flu season.

Winter is a peak time and can stretch emergency services.

The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority oversees Triple Zero calls and its executive director emergency communications centres Tim Madigan said people should not be discouraged from calling.

However, they should ensure they only call if they genuinely need an ambulance.

“Calling Triple Zero when there is no emergency puts lives at risk because it may delay help to someone in genuine need,” Mr Madigan said.

“An emergency is a serious, unexpected and often dangerous situation that requires immediate action. This includes danger to life, health or property.

“Some examples of an emergency include difficulty breathing, severe bleeding or a suspected stroke.”

On average, the ESTA answers more than 6900 calls for help per day, representing a call every 12 seconds.

Data shows that between 1 June 2017 and May 31 2018 there were 19,093 Triple Zero calls in 31 regional towns and suburbs across the region.

The ESTA could not be certain how many calls originated in each area, because people with mobiles registered to one suburb might contact Triple Zero from different places.

However, the data showed calls from landlines or mobiles registered to Bendigo were among the highest in the region, at 6093. Kangaroo Flat and Eaglehawk also had high numbers, with 3808 and 1849 respectively. Castlemaine had 1724.

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Ambulance Victoria had supported campaigns to stop unnecessary call-outs, with Loddon group manager Tony Walsh saying last year that less urgent cases could include people who hurt their shoulder playing football and those who had suffered minor burns.

He said there had been cases where paramedics had attended only to find people had been scratched by a cat or wanted a lift home.

Ambulance Victoria’s acting CEO Mick Stephenson said if it was not an emergency, people should take a moment and think about their options.

“If you feel unwell or have a minor injury, you can visit your local GP. You can speak with a pharmacist for questions about general health or use of medications, or ring Nurse-On-Call at any time for immediate advice,” he said.