The ACTAS has a broad range of responsibilities under the Emergencies Act 2004 and is responsible for providing emergency, non-emergency, and aero-medical ambulance services to the ACT community in addition to supporting the other emergency services in the delivery of their responsibilities.

The ACTAS delivers these services from eight ambulance stations and the ESA Emergency Triple Zero Communications Centre (ComCen) on a 24/7 basis, as well as from ESA Headquarters and ESA Training Centre.

Under nationally agreed indicators, the ACT Ambulance Service (ACTAS) measures Priority 1 response times to emergency triple zero calls against a benchmark of eight minutes or less (50th percentile) and 15 minutes or less (90th percentile). In 2020-21, the ACTAS achieved an average response time of 8.95 minutes against the 50th percentile and 14.70 minutes against the 90th percentile.

Service Delivery

There is no direct correlation between the number of incidents and the number of responses, as some incidents may be managed over the phone by the ESA ComCen, with no requirement for attendance by emergency paramedics, while other incidents may require attendance by multiple emergency response vehicles on site.

In 2020-21, the ACTAS managed 70 065 incidents involving 68 431 responses by operational crews. Details of the ACTAS 2020-21 operational activity are provided in the below table.

Table 32 - ACT Ambulance Service – Operational Activity 2020-21

Operational activity

2019-20

2020-21

Incident Type

Incidents

Responses

Incidents

Responses

Medical (includes aeromedical)

61 043

61 379

68 168

65 959

Dual Response (Fire, storm, etc)

762

770

1 897

2 472

Total incidents

61 805

62 149

70 065

68 431

Capability

In 2020-21, ACTAS employed 13 new graduate intern paramedics, five laterally recruited paramedics and four additional non-emergency patient transport officers. Whilst ACTAS projects minimum resourcing levels of ten crews, day and night seven days a week, increased demand has seen ACTAS Operations implement an 11th 24/7 crew in 2021. The ACTAS Operations Management team has also undergone a restructure to create contemporary and dynamic portfolios which include all areas of operational business, emergency management, specialised responses and alternative services.

The impacts of COVID-19 required significant changes to business for ACTAS Education during the year. Key changes included how staff accessed learning and development opportunities, with face-to-face learning having been suspended. During this period ACTAS transitioned between the use of a bespoke electronic learning management system to an all of ESA product.

Figure 17 - Graduate Group 3/2020 Bush Day

Figure 17 - Graduate Group 3-2020 Bush Day

Figure 18 - Graduate Group 1/2021 practice haemorrhage control techniques

Figure 18 - Graduate Group 1-2021 practice haemorrhage control techniques

The Clinical Governance capability was enhanced during 2020-21 with the recruitment of a dedicated infection control officer. This role is responsible for ensuring that ACTAS infection
control policies and procedures reflect best practice.

SouthCare Aeromedical Retrieval Service

The SouthCare helicopter aero-medical retrieval service is a joint venture funded by the ACT and NSW governments. SouthCare provides aero-medical retrieval and rescue services to the ACT and surrounding region of south-east NSW. NSW provides 90% of the funding, with the ACT contributing the remaining 10%. During 2020-21, this life-saving aero-medical retrieval service flew 438 missions, which included inter-hospital retrieval, search and rescue, and pre-hospital primary taskings. In addition, the rostered flight team undertook 98 road retrievals.

2020-21 Highlights

Following the success of the proof of concept for the Police, Ambulance, Clinician Early Response (PACER) program, which commenced in December 2019, the ACT government announced further funding to secure the program. This funding will allow the PACER program to operate daily from 2pm to midnight over the next four years.

In the first 12 months of its operations, PACER teams responded to 1 314 callouts related to acute mental health crises which resulted in four out of five Canberrans receiving care in their home and remaining in the community rather than being hospitalised. In 2021, 13 new PACER team members, including six ACTAS paramedics, completed their training and commenced operations, bringing the total number of trained PACER first responders to 27.

Figure 19 - PACER Crew

In late 2020, ACTAS developed a five-year strategic plan designed to address the Service’s requirements over the next five years. The plan focuses on an alternate service delivery model to enable ACTAS to provide enhanced patient-centred care that strategically addresses the forecasted increase in service demand. The strategic plan also encompasses recommendations and outcomes from previous external reviews including the Blueprint for Change report. Current and future projects will be aligned to the strategic plan.