Shadow Minister for Emergency Services Brad Battin has said that Victorians calling triple-zero are set to be left on hold for longer as the State Government misses an opportunity to get emergency calls answered sooner.
The Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) has spent an estimated $400,000 on a 12-month pilot program to improve the mental wellbeing of staff.
This new expenditure comes as Victoria’s triple-zero hotline continues struggling to answer calls in a timely manner, with as few as three staff available to answer emergency calls overnight during recent weeks.
The money being spent on this program would cover the wages of more than six new emergency call takers – potentially doubling the number of staff available to receive emergency calls overnight.
Tragically, these delays are resulting in tragic outcomes for people and families in need as Victorians are left waiting on hold for up to 15 minutes to speak to an emergency call taker.
In a May 2021 employee survey, participants were asked to rate out of 100, the adequacy of staffing levels at ESTA.
The cumulative score was extremely low, at 19/100, with an employee providing the following feedback on how to improve workloads at ESTA.
Battin’s statement read “Stop focusing and spending money on “wellbeing” and mental health, no operations staff on the floor want this… Start spending money where the effect will be really appreciated… ramping up recruitment drives, tv ads for recruitment drives, really give Esta a brand out in the market… make our profile as high as Vic Pol and AV. Create a buzz so that we can start to source more staff. So many people in the state of Victoria are not even aware it’s a career option. Spend money in the learning centre to help get these staff through to the floor. THIS is where we need money spent. Not on mental health and well-being programs that no one has time to even do at the moment.”
Instead of spending more money on the well-being of overworked staff, the State Government must put on more emergency call takers so Victorians in need can get the emergency help they deserve, he said.
“Instead of spending money on programs staff don’t want, this funding should be used to hire more emergency call takers to help Victorians in need.
“It’s unacceptable that desperate Victorians are facing 15 minute triple-zero wait times. We don’t need more reviews, but more resources to get this system working.
“Victoria will never recover and rebuild whilst our emergency hotline is in disarray. A Matthew Guy Liberals and Nationals Government will put on more triple-zero staff so calls for help are answered on time.”