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Victoria’s ambulance union says triple zero operators were flooded with tens of thousands of calls in the 24 hours leading to the state’s second code red in a week.

Victoria Ambulance Union assistance secretary Olga Bartasek told Melbourne radio station 3AW it was completely unheard of to declare two emergencies in a week.

“It’s unprecedented,” she said.

“Who would have ever thought that there’d be 37,000 or 40,000 calls to the ambulance service in a 24-hour period.”

Ms Bartasek said operators at the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) had reported that up to 60 per cent of requests were for non-urgent care.

They involved people who were frightened after receiving a coronavirus diagnosis, wanting to know if the ambulance service had rapid antigen tests, and asking what vaccination centres were open.


Ms Bartasek said some callers had previously called alternative services such as their GP, Nurse-on-call Victoria or the COVID hotline without success.

“Someone panics because they’ve gotten a positive result and they’re just worried that they’re going to get really sick and something dire is going to happen, so they call the ambulance service.”

She said operators tried to quickly divert the calls to other services but even a five-minute conversation tied up the line and caused a backlog.

Ms Bartasek did not have updated figures on how long some seriously ill patients had waited for an ambulance overnight, but she said a person had been forced to wait for two hours during the code red last week.

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