Authorities are investigating after the family of a three-year-old girl was placed on hold for 1 minute and 41 seconds while calling triple zero for help.

Ambulance Victoria said paramedics were dispatched ‘without delay’ after being called to a cardiac arrest in a town outside of Bendigo at 6.29 pm on Monday. An Advanced Life Support crew was the first to arrive on the scene at 6.43pm, but tragically, the girl died in their care before reaching the hospital.

Ambulance Victoria Acting Loddon Mallee Regional Director Trevor Weston said, “Despite the best efforts of our paramedics and those on the scene, the patient did not survive. We offer our sincerest condolences to the patient’s family at this difficult time.”

It is not yet known whether the delay contributed to the girl’s death.

Health Minister Martin Foley said the time spent on hold was ‘under active investigation’, telling reporters, “Any death is a tragedy, but the death of a young child from a major incident like that is really, really traumatic for everyone involved”.

He added that emergency departments, hospital wards and paramedics were dealing with ‘record levels’ of demand as a result of a rise in COVID-19 cases and other emergency presentations. Victoria recorded 1438 COVID-19 cases on Thursday, and there are currently 398 patients in Victorian hospitals with the virus.

Earlier on Wednesday, AV’s Mick Stephenson said paramedics had noticed longer delays at hospitals “than we’ve ever had before”, telling ABC Melbourne, “Our capacity to respond and our performance has never been challenged as much as it has been over recent weeks. If the growth in COVID cases continues, performance will be expected to get poorer unless we can do something about reducing the number of people coming into hospital.”

He added that transferring COVID-19 patients had become a major problem for paramedics, and that those with mild symptoms were being sent home.

Image: ymgerman/Getty Images

This article first appeared in Over60.