Report reveals SA ambulance wait times worst in nation

A government report has revealed South Australia’s ambulance response times have doubled in the last year and are now the worst in the nation.

Feb 02, 2023, updated Feb 02, 2023
Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Productivity Commission Report on Government Services shows a spike in ambulance response times from 2020, with the state government pointing the finger at the former Liberal government for the delays.

In 2021-22, the ambulance response time was more than 71 minutes for the 10 per cent of metropolitan patients who waited the longest, with New South Wales the next worst at 41 minutes.

A statement from the government said four years ago, wait times were 18 minutes, “showing that the response times increased by nearly 300 per cent under the Liberals’ watch”.

Health Minister Chris Picton said the former Liberal government was to blame for the alarming figures.

“This report card on the Liberals lays bare the dire state the Marshall Government left our health system in,” Picton said.

“As we have consistently said, it will take time to fix the Liberals’ mess – and this data shows just how bad things got under their watch.

“This data from the previous government shows why it was so important we are now investing in 550 more hospital beds, 300 more nurses, 100 more doctors and 350 more ambos.”

But Shadow Minister for Health Ashton Hurn said the report shows that during the global pandemic, health systems across Australia were under immense pressure.

“Ramping has skyrocketed by 135 per cent on Peter Malinauskas’ watch – dramatically surpassing the worst figures under the previous government – and this Labor government was elected on a key promise to fix ramping,” Hurn said.

“Rather than criticising the previous government, Peter Malinauskas and Chris Picton should be taking responsibility for Labor’s shameful record, presiding over the worst ambulance ramping figures in South Australia’s history, despite their election promise to fix it.”

Statewide, SA Ambulance Service responses took more than 58 minutes for the worst 10 per cent of callouts – with second-worst NSW again performing far better at 36.8 minutes.

The report also highlighted that emergency department waiting times in SA were longer than the national average.

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A little more than half of patients (55 per cent) were seen on time in SA emergency departments in the 2021-2022 financial year, a six per cent decline from 2020-21, and significantly lower than the national average of 67 per cent.

Alarmingly, for emergency (category 2) patients, only 53 per cent were seen within the 10-minute recommended timeframe, compared to a national average of 65 per cent.

Only 45 per cent of urgent (category 3) patients were seen within a 30-minute timeframe, compared to 58 per cent nationally.

More than 42 per cent of South Australians waited more than four hours in the emergency department – an increase on the previous year, and higher than the national average of 39 per cent.

The median wait for elective surgery in SA was 48 days, 19 days more than the national average.

And 15.5 per cent of patients saw their surgery wait extended, up from just six per cent the previous year.

Around half of mental health-related emergency department presentations were seen within clinically recommended waiting times in SA, below the national average of 63.8 per cent.

Government data shows ambulance ramping has increased by 64 per cent over the past year, with statewide ramping hours increasing from 2138 in November 2021 to 3516 in November 2022.


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