Victorians are accustomed to being able to rely on the emergency (triple zero) call service for help from police, fire and ambulance in life-threatening situations. They are used to calling triple zero and being rapidly connected to the most appropriate emergency service in seconds.
ESTA – the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority – provides Victoria’s triple zero call-taking and dispatch services. This includes emergency ambulance calls.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic challenged all aspects of society, including placing all parts of Victoria’s health system under strain. ESTA faced challenges in managing record-breaking volumes of emergency calls, particularly for ambulance events.
In late 2021 the level of calls grew to a point where ESTA was taking longer than the five second target time to answer most emergency calls – at times more than 10 minutes – damaging the public’s confidence in the system, and placing the community at risk.
This report examines and assesses both ESTA’s and the broader emergency management sector’s planning and preparedness for a major surge in emergency ambulance calls due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The review also examines how the sector responded to the surge in emergency ambulance calls, the effectiveness of its response, and collaborative efforts to address the challenges.