New WA COVID-19 cases reach fresh peak of 17,105 as report puts St John Ambulance on notice

Home Health New WA COVID-19 cases reach fresh peak of 17,105 as report puts St John Ambulance on notice
New WA COVID-19 cases reach fresh peak of 17,105 as report puts St John Ambulance on notice

Western Australia has recorded its highest number of new COVID-19 cases as the fallout from problems affecting St John Ambulance continues, with a report saying alternatives should be considered if the service does not improve within five years.

Another six people have died with the virus on a day when a record 17,105 coronavirus infections have been reported in the state.

WA now has 88,781 active cases while 300 people are in hospital with the virus, down from 327, with 10 in intensive care.

The previous peak in daily cases for WA was 17,033, set on Wednesday last week.

‘Significant strain’ on ambulance service

Amidst COVID-related staff shortages in the health system and at St John Ambulance, a parliamentary committee report on the delivery of ambulance services in WA has been tabled in parliament.

A long line of ambulances.
The report says new key performance indicators should be developed for St John Ambulance.(ABC News: Jessica Warriner)

The report, including its 74 findings and 48 recommendations, was tabled by Upper House whip and chair of the public administration committee Pierre Yang, who then made a statement.

The committee had made a number of recommendations to address the fact St John had been unable to achieve its contractual target response times for emergency calls in the 2020-2021 financial year.

Mr Yang said the government should review the implementation of the recommendations within the next five years and consider alternative emergency ambulance service providers or a state-run service if service delivery did not improve.

The recommendations included:

  • That new key performance indicators be developed for the ambulance service and that they be regularly reported to parliament
  • The government investigate whether having Department of Health staff answer 000 calls would improve patient outcomes
  • A system be developed to provide St John with information about patient outcomes
  • The availability of emergency ambulances be made publicly available online, as it is in Queensland
  • The operational hours of non-emergency patient transfer services be extended to be 24 hours a day, to avoid having emergency resources tied up conducting non-emergency transfers between 1am and 6am
  • That ambulance response times be recorded from the moment a 000 call is received, rather than when the ambulance is dispatched
  • Employee culture surveys be conducted and the organisational structure of St John be re-evaluated, to counteract an identified lack of trust employees have in senior management
  • That Aboriginal communities which do not have access to an ambulance service be identified and the adequacy of existing services be investigated, as communities including WA’s largest remote Aboriginal community Bidyadanga does not have guaranteed access to emergency ambulance transport.

The delivery of the report comes as COVID-furloughing and record levels of ambulance ramping plague WA Health and St John Ambulance.

An investigation is also continuing into the death of Georgina Wild, who waited two hours for an ambulance on Sunday morning, in a scenario the government has labelled as “unacceptable”.

Ms Wild was the third woman to die in a month after issues with the ambulance service, following the deaths of a Geraldton woman while waiting for an ambulance, and a Busselton woman who was in the care of paramedics when she died after waiting three hours for treatment.

There have also been reports a man in Perth’s east died of a suspected heart attack after waiting more than two hours for an ambulance on Sunday morning. 

St John chief stands firm at helm

St John chief executive Michelle Fyfe said she had not yet had an opportunity to review and respond in detail to the report, which she received today. 

“We will deliver our response to the Minister for Health in the next six weeks,” she said. 

Ms Fyfe head shot inside an office, speaking.
Michelle Fyfe says St John staff are continuing to do the best they can in challenging circumstances.(ABC News: Rebecca Trigger)

However, Ms Fyfe said she was pleased the report acknowledged the impact of ambulance ramping and the need for further investment in regional areas.

Ms Fyfe shut down questions from media about whether she would resign, saying she would continue to lead the organisation through “the most difficult time we have seen in our history”.

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