PARAMEDICS want to free up Bendigo ambulances as calls spike 17.2 per cent in one year.
The pandemic's pressures are being felt across the Greater Bendigo area and life-threatening code one cases have risen nearly 10 per cent, data from the first quarter of the financial year shows.
Rising COVID-19 case numbers are threatening response times but so far the number of ambulances reaching patients within 15 minutes has only dropped slightly.
It belies a reality that paramedics are facing throughout the region, the area's acting director Trevor Weston said
"Here in Loddon Mallee, we are dealing with an extraordinary workload, which is also being experienced by crews right across the state," he said.
Ambulance Victoria is preparing to roll out more services ahead of an expected peak in COVID-19 cases as the year ends.
That includes a new "medium acuity" transport service based in Eaglehawk and a unit in Bendigo that will target peak periods of demand, Mr Weston said.
Loddon Mallee's paramedics have also added the equivalent of 57 full time paramedics to their secondary triage service to free people up to deal with the sickest patients.
The triage service has become the second busiest in the state and is currently dealing with 500 or more cases every day, Mr Weston said.
Pressures on the healthcare system were already high before COVID-19 hit, the Australian Medical Association's Victoria president Roderick McRae said.
"The data also shows a Victorian health system that was already stretched as it responded to the healthcare needs of a growing population living longer and experiencing more complex disease - pressures exacerbated by a continued long term downward trend in private health insurance participation," he said as the association launched its 2021 hospital report card.
"These underlying stresses will only continue, and will need to be addressed as the state emerges from the pandemic in the years ahead."
Dr McRae called for extra investment in preventative health measures to help reduce comparatively expensive public hospital care in the years ahead.
In the meantime, states and the federal government have been pouring extra resources into the healthcare system to deal with the immediate crisis posed by COVID-19 throughout the pandemic.
The latest funding boost came on Friday when the national government agreed to top up state and territory health systems ahead of the predicted surge in hospitalisations.
The funding was particularly important in New South Wales and Victoria, the government said.
Those states are still dealing with large outbreaks.
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