Speech: Matter of Public Importance (healthcare crisis)

Our health system is in crisis. Ambulance Victoria is in crisis.

For the last two years during a health pandemic we have sat and been locked in our homes
for much for that time, being told by our Premier that he was preparing the hospital system so we
could cope.

So how disturbing is it to have heard last week that the Andrews Labor government have
cut funding to the 000 emergency call centres: our fire, our ambulance and our police.

I have been hearing from my colleagues here in metro Melbourne, but it is happening in the regions as well.

We are hearing of people being told that an ambulance will not come and then driving people to the

When I was nursing one of the main things we were always told was it is completely irresponsible to drive a patient, particularly someone who has got chest pain or bleeding or a major trauma, to the hospital, and this is what people are being told to do.

The reason it is so dangerous and the reason it is so concerning is that people panic when they are behind the wheel and they see the person that they have got there collapsing, losing consciousness, bleeding, in excruciating pain — whatever the situation is — and that causes accidents and more people to die. It makes sense. That is why we have an ambulance service.

I will quote someone, and I will refer to the situation that they told me about in a minute.

Simon from Bojangles, which is a restaurant in my region, experienced that situation where the ambulance could not come. I was talking to him after this, and he said, ‘There are certain fundamentals that we expect when we pay our tax in Victoria, and they’re just not what we’re getting anymore’.

I do not know how many times I am being told about situations, whether it be Nicole from Portland, who was sitting in accident and emergency with her son, emailing me, telling me that an ambulance had not come for her child—just so distraught—or whether it is Hannah the nurse from Kirkstall, who was having a postpartum bleed and knew how important it was for her to get to hospital.

But the call would not connect, so she would have bled out. Luckily, being a nurse she knew that, and the only reason she did not die was that she was a nurse and so was her husband, who drove her to the hospital.

And Simon, who I just quoted a minute ago—Simon who owns a restaurant in Warrnambool, Simon
who had a person collapse and have a fit in the restaurant at Christmas time—was trying desperately
to ring 000. He got connected to the, ‘Do you want ambulance, police or fire?’ message, he said
‘ambulance’ and it rang out. He continued to try.

Dave, who was a customer who also told me about this incident, tried ringing as well. One of his staff, luckily, was a nurse. When they finally did get on to the ambulance it was about an hour and a half, all up, this incident.

The ambulance said, ‘Get the guy home in a taxi’. The nurse said, ‘There is no way I am doing that’, and she drove him to the hospital.

These people in my community were so shocked at this incident. Later that night Simon spoke to the police, and the police said, ‘Yeah, we heard about what happened. It was pretty awful’. So these are the stories that are not just happening in metro Melbourne but are happening here.

Before when the member for Hawthorn was laughing, I said, ‘Come on’, because we were saying,
‘You must be getting emails. You must be hearing the stories’.

Well, my sister lives in your electorate, and in 2017 from being on non-steroidal anti-inflammatories she had an internal bleed. She lost consciousness. She was preparing dinner for her children. It was over an hour. She had gone past the tachycardia stage—Steve, you will know what I am talking about—past the blood pressure dropping to lose consciousness, and she was so bradycardic when she reached hospital she nearly died. So it is happening in Hawthorn.

She got an ambulance after an hour and a half, member for Melton. She got an ambulance after an hour and a half. So these are real stories.

Now I will move on to waiting lists, because we are hearing story after story, not just in metro but
right throughout the regions, about how long it is taking people to be able to have surgery.

Surgery is vital. We have called it ‘elective surgery’, but now we are all realising just what elective surgery
means. I do not think anyone wants to go under the knife without a good reason.

We have got—we do not know how many we have got, actually. I can tell you that Warrnambool, South West Healthcare, has gone from 85 days to 218 days waitlisted. If you add all the hospitals up you will get the answer to how many people there are on the waitlist. We knew it was 80 000 in December. We know the hospitals all keep the data, so we know that information is available. But secrecy is a feature of this

Portland hospital, which has 9000 presentations to its urgent care every year, more than Hamilton
hospital, has just had access to a secret report, the Hillis report, that Professor David Hillis wrote in

It is now 2022, and that report has been leaked by someone who is obviously very worried about
the situation in Portland.

Now, I do not want to for one minute focus on the fact that—it is distractions. The reality is that report says the government has had review after review after review, and this professor said no more reviews until the recommendations that have been in these reports and in the report he had are adopted by the government. And it cannot be done by Portland District Health alone.

It has to be government led. But the government will not show the community what is in that report. I
have read what is in that report. I have seen that report, and why should the people of Portland, with
an industrial port, an agricultural sector and a forestry sector, have less ability to seek the support they
need, when they are at least 4 hours from the city, an hour and a half from Warrnambool, which has
got blowing-out elective surgery lists as well and pressures on it—that is why we are building a new
hospital there.

Why should the people of Portland not have the support they need? Why the secrecy? It is not about personalities or local politics. It is about a government-led situation that the government
knows they have to do but wanted to keep that a secret.

Well, the secret is out, so it is time to be transparent with our community and support the people of Portland.

I cannot believe we in Victoria have just gone through a code brown. We have got an ambulance
service that has been cut when we have got the highest demand on the health system and people need
them the most.

We have got the least funding, in the state of Victoria for the health system, of any other state in Australia, so much so we had to have a code brown called.

Now, I nursed in the hospitals for many, many years. I know what a code red is. I know what a code blue
is. I know what a code yellow is—purple, black. I had never heard of a code brown, probably because
no-one thought I would ever need to know about it, so I was not taught it.

Because you just would not think in the state of Victoria that we would be in the crisis we are in now, and I will quote again Simon Mugavin from Bojangles, when he said, ‘Roma, there are certain fundamentals we expect in Victoria — health care, ambulance, to dial an ambulance and get an answer and get an ambulance’.

He waited over an hour and a half—while, he said, ‘I had to walk over the guy, back and forth, because I had to still be able to manage the restaurant’. He was quite traumatised, as I think you could probably imagine.

And then we get to dental waiting lists. Well, 151 500 people are waiting to see a public dental system,
and what has the government done about that? What is it now, 19 out of the last 23 years, and we have
151 500 people who are in pain.

These are not people wanting to have a check-up. They are people who are in pain. They are struggling. Their nutrition is compromised. Their health and wellbeing is compromised because they cannot function in excruciating pain. Have you ever had a toothache? I hope not. They are pretty darn hard to treat. They are actually very, very hard to treat with normal analgesics. The best treatment is going to a dentist preventively, and when you have to, seeing a dentist.

I have, as you all know, nursed for a very long time. Prophylactic medicine was a feature. We are now
in a reactive medicine stage, and we will take years to recover because this government has not shown
the care.

They have lied to us. They have told us things that are not true, and now we are finding out
the truth—from the Productivity Commission, no less. These are the facts. This is not me saying it.
These are the government’s failures.