Ambulance Victoria (AV), an agency of the Department of Health & Human Services, is the statutory provider of pre-hospital emergency care and ambulance services in Victoria. Ambulance Victoria was formed on 1 July 2008 following the merger of the Metropolitan Ambulance Service (MAS), Rural Ambulance Victoria (RAV), and the Alexandra District Ambulance Service (ADAS). Ambulance Victoria has undergone significant reform since 2008.
Ambulance Victoria provides emergency medical response to more than 5.9 million people in an area of more than 227,000 square kilometres. During 2015-2016, Ambulance Victoria responded to 843,051 cases.
In 2016, it was announced that 450 extra paramedics would be funded the largest Victorian ambulance investment ever.
Formal ambulance services began in Victoria since 1883. Over the years services were provided by St John Ambulance, Civil Ambulance Service and a multitude of local area ambulance services. In the 1980s the Metropolitan Ambulance Service was formed from a number of smaller area services and 16 regional services were amalgamated into five. In 1997 this was then consolidated down to one rural service, Rural Ambulance Victoria.
On 22 April 2008, Premier John Brumby and Health Minister Daniel Andrews announced a record funding boost of over $185m, including two new helicopter services, 26 new ambulance stations and over 300 new paramedics. In addition to this, it was also announced that the very way the state's ambulance services work was proposed to be changed with Metropolitan Ambulance Service and Rural Ambulance Victoria becoming one organisation, Ambulance Victoria. On 26 May this decision was confirmed, with one service commencing operation on 1 July 2008.
Ambulance Victoria is required under the Ambulance Services Act 1986 (Vic) to respond rapidly to requests for help in a medical emergency; provide specialised medical skills to maintain life and to reduce injuries in emergency situations and while transporting patients; provide specialised transport facilities to move people requiring emergency medical treatment; provide services for which specialised medical or transport skills are necessary and foster public education in first aid.
Ambulance Victoria's primary function is to respond to emergency incidents and its secondary function is medical transport (non-emergency) requests. Emergency Incidents are responded to by paramedics, Mobile Intensive Care Ambulance (MICA) paramedics, Air Ambulance paramedics and if in a regional area also by Ambulance Community Officers (ACO) employed on a casual basis and volunteer Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) or by Remote Area Nurse (RAN) from a bush hospital. Ambulance Victoria has more than 260 ambulance branches located across Victoria.
In 2015-2016, Ambulance Victoria's workforce was 3,438 paramedics and 578 MICA paramedics. In addition, Ambulance Victoria employed 723 casual ACO and there was 357 CERT volunteers.
In the same year, Ambulance Victoria responded to 843,051 emergency and non-emergency cases including 172,960 emergency road incidents in the five rural regions, 416,887 emergency road incidents in the two metropolitan regions and 4,556 emergency air incidents (2,033 by helicopter and 2,523 by plane).
Ambulance Victoria assesses each emergency incident on receipt of the 000 call, designating the incident a code depending on the urgency/severity between 1 and 3, with Code 1 being the highest, and publishes its response times for each quarter of the year on the internet.
Ambulance Victoria operates a Bicycle Response Unit in pre-planned operations for public events in Melbourne with large crowds. The unit was established in the lead up to the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
In 2012, a Paramedic Motorcycle Unit was trialled in inner city Melbourne operating two Piaggio MP3 three wheeled motorbikes. The trial was successful with the BMW F700GS motorcycle selected to be the unit's motorcycle to operate in the inner Melbourne area mainly in the councils of City of Melbourne and City of Port Phillip.
Ambulance Victoria's emergency and non-emergency patient transport communications are handled by Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) communication centres in East Burwood and Ballarat.
Ambulance communications functions include 000 Emergency call-taking, non-emergency patient transport requests, and ambulance dispatch for emergency and non-emergency vehicles. Modern emergency services communications is highly advanced, and communications staff use a wide range of technologies including digital and analogue radio, telephones, pagers, and advanced computer and GPS systems. Many emergency services vehicles, including ambulances, are fitted with mobile data terminals that enable them to view information, read messages sent by call-takers and dispatchers, and be notified of updates immediately as they become available. A number of communication services used by Ambulance Victoria, such as digital radio and mobile data terminals, are not available outside metropolitan Melbourne.
Ambulance Victoria operates a range of vehicles:-Mercedes 318 Sprinter (Rural areas only)
Mercedes 316 Sprinter (old edition slowly being phased out, new edition being phased in)
Mercedes 416 Sprinter (Support, Bariatric and other specialised units)
Iveco ACCO Medium Truck (Command and Communications Vehicle)
Ford Territory (Single responder/MICA Single responder)
Toyota Klugger (Team managers)
Volkswagen Amarok (Single responder)
BMW F700GS motorcycles (Paramedic Motorcycle Unit)
Honda Oddessy (Medical transport for walking patients)
Isuzu 400 series (tow trucks)
Ambulance Victoria has a fleet of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft operated by Air Ambulance Victoria (AAV) based out of Essendon Airport in Melbourne with helicopters strategically placed in regional Victoria. In addition, the helicopters respond to search and rescue incidents, able to utilise the winch, including sea rescues.
AAV operates five twin engine AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters through a contract with Australian helicopters that are leased from LCI. The helicopters were introduced from 2016 to replace the four Bell 412EP helicopters and also one Eurocopter AS365N3 Dauphin helicopter that had been operated in partnership with the Victoria Police Air Wing.
The helicopters are designated HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) and operate throughout the state:-HEMS 1 based at Essendon.
HEMS 2 based in the La Trobe Valley.
HEMS 3 based in Bendigo.
HEMS 4 based in Warnambool.
HEMS 5 is for primary response and specialist medical retrieval based at Essendon.
Helicopter operations commenced in 1970 with a Bell 206A JetRanger known as the 'Angel of Mercy' based on the Mornington Peninsula operated from Tyabb Airport. In 1980, a Hughes 500D was operated in the La Trobe Valley, later a Bell 206 Long Ranger and from 1985 a Bell 412 known as Helimed 1 later renamed to HEMS 2. In 1986, AAV entered a partnership with the Victoria Police Air Wing to use a Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin which would respond to both police and ambulance incidents with ambulance given priority known as HEMS 1 and replacing the 'Angel of Mercy'. Two helicopters were configured for the aeromedical role with one as a spare. In 2001, a Bell 412EP was operated from Bendigo airport known as HEMS 3. In 2009, a Bell 412EP was operated from Warrnambool Airport known as HEMS 4 and a second Bell 412EP was operated from Essendon known as HEMS 5 to transport critically ill patients from rural hospitals to Melbourne. In January 2017, the final of the five new AgustaWestland AW139s entered service replacing the Victoria Police Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin and ending the partnership.
AAV operates four Beechcraft B200C King Airs from its Essendon headquarters and can reach most of Victoria within an hour. They are used mainly for transporting patients from rural towns to the major hospitals in Melbourne and can carry two stretcher patients and two walking patients. This service includes bringing people to Melbourne for regular treatments such as oncology and dialysis while also facilitating acute medical conditions requiring surgery or the transfer of injured patients from rural hospitals to specialist care. The service now reaches to more than 86 towns within Victoria while also servicing southern New South Wales, northern Tasmania and some parts of South Australia.