Ambulance ramping in South Australia has soared to a new record high, prompting the opposition to accuse the government of winning the last election on the “basis of [a] lie”, and the government to respond by condemning the remark as “hysterical”.

Patients spent 4,773 hours on the ramp in May, according to the latest South Australian government figures published online.

That figure surpasses the previous peak, in November, by almost 500 hours and represents a surge of more than 1,300 hours since April, when ramping dropped to 3,450 hours.

SA Health defines ramping as a patient waiting in an ambulance outside a metropolitan emergency department for more than 30 minutes.

A Labor corflute from the 2022 SA state election promising to fix ramping.(ABC News)

The ramping result comes just two days after a system-wide code yellow — or internal emergency — was declared on Thursday afternoon. 

All Category 3 and Category 4 elective surgeries across metropolitan and regional public hospitals have been cancelled for up to a week as part of the measure.

At a media conference in response to the ramping data, Opposition Leader David Speirs described it as a “bleak day” for the state’s health system and hit out at the government.

Mr Speirs was critical of the government’s 2022 election campaign, in which it promised to “fix the ramping crisis”.

“This is a catastrophe for South Australia’s health system. This means people not getting care when they most need it,” he said.

“Labor promised to fix ramping, they promised to end the ramping crisis, they told us to … ‘vote Labor like you life depends on it’, and what have they delivered us? The greatest electoral fraud in our state’s history.

“They stole the election on the basis of this lie … and it’s time the premier fronted up, apologised to South Australians and gave us some answers.”

SA Opposition Leader David Speirs speaks to the media about ramping.(ABC News)

He also called on the premier to “finish off [Health Minister] Chris Picton’s political career” and “make this man step aside”.

In response, a government spokesperson staunchly rejected Mr Speirs’s claims.

“While David Speirs is focused on hysterical political rhetoric, we are are focused on building the hospital beds we promised to deliver,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Picton with others including Labor colleagues Nat Cook and Katrine Hildyard at a development project at Modbury Hospital.

Earlier on Saturday, SA Health Minister Chris Picton defended the government’s record, saying it was “taking action” and that new beds were a “critical part of the issue” of reducing pressure on the system.

“Being in that incident management response with this very high level of demand [it] won’t be a surprise to anybody that we have seen very disappointing, high levels of ramping across our system,” he said.

“Clearly our health system has been under tremendous pressure in the past few weeks as we battle increasing numbers of COVID and flu cases hitting our community. 

“It’s leading to more presentations at our hospitals but it’s also meaning more staff are off sick because of that.”

Mr Picton was speaking at a construction site at Noarlunga Hospital, where work is underway on a project announced early last year to create 48 extra beds.

Asked whether the government was failing the public, Mr Picton said it was “determined” to ensure patients received appropriate care.

‘Our health system is sick’

Adelaide woman Trudy said she was among the patients who had had their elective surgeries delayed as a result of the “code yellow”, and said her procedure had been “already cancelled twice”.

She said her surgery was initially scheduled for last month but, at the very last moment, she was told it would not proceed because of system overcrowding.

“I was offered surgery in May to take my gall bladder out so hopefully it would lessen the pain and the impact on myself,” she said.

“I was all set up, ready to go in, I had the blue surgical gown, I had the ted stockings on and I’d also been prepped and it wasn’t until 2:30 that a surgeon came out and told me I couldn’t have my surgery.”

Adelaide resident Trudy said doctors were forced to twice cancel gall bladder surgery.(ABC News: Sophie Holder)

She said she was rescheduled for next week, but she was phoned on Friday and informed the surgery had been cancelled again.

“I was actually devastated. I need this to come out. I’ve lost 25 kilograms through not being able to eat properly because it hurts,” she said.

She said her condition could potentially get much worse if left untreated.

“It’s urgent but not urgent enough — but it could be. So I’m quite stunned at how the government’s just gone ‘code yellow’ for people like me,” she said.

“We’re all sitting in pain, we’ve come from all over the state, we’ve had to prep.

“Our health system is actually sick.”

Posted , updated