Unblocking the system: a VHA issues paper

September 19, 2022

The Victorian health system is operating under immense pressure. Our public health and ambulance services continue to deliver high-quality care, while facing increased presentations and increased patient acuity, at a time of significant workforce shortages.

One of the most public displays of this pressure is ambulance offload delays. This occurs when ambulances arrive at emergency departments (EDs) that have reached capacity, and the ambulance and paramedics must continue to provide critical treatment to the patient until they can be safely handed over into the hospital’s care.

While this may be perceived as a simple issue relating to ambulances and EDs, it is symptomatic of broader, interrelated challenges occurring across the health system – it occurs in health systems that are operating over capacity.

This symptom of system stress can attract significant press and public attention, with a lot of focus on ambulances and health services – despite many of the contributing factors being outside their control.

The VHA has developed an issues paper to examine the compounding issues in health systems that can lead to ambulance offload delays. Unblocking the system: An issues paper on the causes of, and potential solutions to, ambulance offload delays in Victoria also identifies policy initiatives that could support a system-wide response to ambulance offload delays in Victoria, based on international and domestic developments and experiences.

Victoria’s health system has been under considerable and sustained stress since the onset of the pandemic – and this pressure shows no sign of diminishing. Demand for emergency care is at an all-time high.

Unblocking the system is intended to generate further innovation and action by sector policy leaders and decision makers. It focuses on building on existing strengths and solutions to support the health system response in the coming months.

Read Unblocking the system: An issues paper on the causes of, and potential solutions to, ambulance offload delays in Victoria