Lights and sirens: Ambulance ‘operational incidents’ probes lift by 575 per cent

Internal reviews probing Queensland ambulance “operational incidents” have skyrocketed as high as 575 per cent in recent years, but Health Minister Yvette D’Ath says new investigative processes are to blame, not a decline in standards.

Aug 15, 2022, updated Aug 15, 2022
Investigations into Queensland ambulance 'operational incidents' have skyrocketed. (Image: ABC)

Investigations into Queensland ambulance 'operational incidents' have skyrocketed. (Image: ABC)

Figures provided by D’Ath to a Question on Notice from Coomera member Michael Crandon show 93 incidents were internally investigated last financial year.

The number is down 278 on the 371 investigations conducted in 2020-21, the first full reporting period of the Covid pandemic.

The figures revealed going back to 2014-15, which includes about half the Palaszczuk Government’s first term after winning the January 2015 election, shows single digit investigations for three of those years – two in 2014-15, nine the following year and eight in 2018-19.

Numbers of ‘Significant Incident Reviews’, or SIRs, hit 79 and 78 in the consecutive years of 2016-17 and 2017-18 and 55 in 2019-20 before the stratospheric rise the following year, an increase of 575 per cent.

D’Ath said a new ‘operational incident review process’ was approved by the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) governance committee in July 2020, replacing guidelines that were established in 2015.

“The revised process was implemented to ensure that the identification and review of operational incidents were completed in a consistent format across the state,” she said.

“The implementation of the revised process resulted in a significant increase in the number of SIRs completed during the 2020-21 financial year.”

Shadow Health Minister Ros Bates said she was sceptical of the minister’s response, arguing the answer lacked transparency and looked “cruel and tricky”.

“This is another example of when things aren’t looking positive for the Palaszczuk Government they change the metric not the outcome,” she said.

“The Palaszczuk Government is more interested with how things look, not how they actually are.”

Bates said the numbers reflected a wider pattern of the government scrapping or changing targets to make their performance look better, which Opposition Leader David Crisafulli summarised after two weeks of budget estimates hearings wrapped up last month.

Calling the exercise an “extraordinary cover-up”, Crisafulli listed scrapped or changed targets across social housing, youth offending, elective surgery, domestic violence services, First Nations employment programs and workplace injuries.

Bates said the State Government was more focused on fiddling with the figures than fixing the problems.

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“This suits nobody but the Palaszczuk Government and sets a dangerous precedent,” she said.

D’Ath’s office declined to offer additional comment, despite a request.

The nature of the internal investigations has also not been disclosed.

In her response to the Parliamentary question, D’Ath said regional managers at the Queensland Ambulance Service had received training to lift the completion rate of their internal reviews.

With the backlog now cleared, she said “the number of SIRs has stabilised accordingly”.





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