AMBULANCES responding to serious cases in rural Victoria are taking up to half an hour to reach patients.
Average waiting times for life and death situations such as heart attacks, strokes and car accidents are in some cases more than twice the State Government benchmark for code one "lights and sirens" cases.
- Mildura: 10 minutes, 6 seconds
- West Melbourne: 10 mins, 20 secs
- Abbotsford: 10 mins, 21 secs
- Northland: 10 mins, 26 secs
- Southbank: 10 mins, 26 secs
- Omeo: 32 mins, 3 secs
- Balmoral: 30 mins, 4 secs
- Glenthompson: 28 mins, 7 secs
- Cann River: 25 mins, 9 secs
- Loch Sport: 25 mins, 8 secs
A statewide Herald Sun investigation of average response times found just 42 of 149 rural branches met the 15-minute benchmark last year.
Omeo, in the alpine region, was worst: code one patients waited 32 minutes on average.
The township of Balmoral, in the southern Grampians, was also dangerously slow: 30.4 minutes on average, according to the figures.
But bucking the trend, Mildura recorded the best average response times in the state, pipping its city rivals for service, with an average time of 10 minutes and six seconds.
Its population of more than 30,000 residents has ambulance stations at opposite ends of town.
Several Melbourne suburbs also failed the code one benchmark, according to Ambulance Victoria figures obtained through Freedom of Information.
Pakenham had an average response time of 15 minutes and 35 seconds, Bacchus Marsh 15 minutes and 14 seconds, and Millgrove 15 minutes and three seconds.
In Melbourne's CBD, the average response time was 10 minutes and 43 seconds; in Geelong, it was 16 minutes on average.
Broadmeadows had an average response time of 12 minutes and 16 seconds, but in Brighton the time was just 10 minutes and 28 seconds.
Opposition parliamentary secretary for health Wade Noonan said average waiting times were drifting by up to two minutes, especially in outer growth areas, placing lives at risk.
"Every minute counts ... it really can be a matter of life and death," he said.
"What we are seeing right across Melbourne are blowouts across the board."
Ambulance Victoria regional services general manager Tony Walker said response times were "not the only measure of a quality ambulance service".
"We continue to see improvements in the more important measures of whether people live or die."
A spokesman for Health Minister David Davis, Kathryn McFarlane, said the Government was investing $151 million to recruit 340 ambulance staff, 310 paramedics and 30 patient transfer officers.
Read more on the Herald Sun.