“IT is staggering, the extent to which the Ambulance Service will stoop, to save a few dollars with little or no regard for the suffering of patients,” said Bob Hull from the Health Services Union yesterday.
The comments were made by Mr Hull, the acting assistant divisional secretary of HSUeast, in relation to a case last week when a patient called for ambulance assistance when they had fallen out of bed at around 10.30pm on Wednesday at Wang Wauk.
An ambulance was despatched from Taree station and on arrival at the scene they found the patient was a large person weighing around 150kg. The ambulance crew called for back up as they were unable to lift the patient and transport them to hospital.
“There was back up ambulance resources on call but instead of calling on that resource the Ambulance Service decided to call for assistance from the volunteer fire service,” Mr Hull said.
Eventually two volunteer fire fighters arrived at the scene, some 50 minutes later according to My Hull.
“One of the volunteer fire fighters refused to assist to lift the patient and the other volunteer was an elderly person that could not provide appropriate assistance.”
A second volunteer fire crew was despatched and arrived a further 25 minutes later and with the help of those three volunteers the ambulance crew were able to lift the patient and transport them to Manning Base Hospital for treatment.
“It would appear the decision to call for assistance from the volunteer fire fighters rather than use the on-call ambulance crew was based solely on cost, with no regard for the suffering that would be incurred by the patient as a consequence of the delay,” Mr Hull said
“This action caused the patient to lay beside their bed suffering for over two hours waiting for volunteers to assist when the despatch of the ready, willing and able ambulance crew would have had the patient up and transported in less than 30 minutes.”
According to Mr Hull members are rightfully disgusted in what they see as the penny pinching decision making occurring within the service at the moment, and those decisions are causing delays to responses and making patients suffer and putting them at risk.
This recent incident follows a similar case the week before when the Taree ambulance was called to a home in Tinonee to discover another very large patient whom paramedics needed help with lifting and transporting.
“Again the Ambulance Service refused to utilise an on-call ambulance crew and instead called the volunteer fire fighters. Two elderly volunteers arrived on scene some 30 minutes later to try to assist.
“These situations not only result in delays in treating the patients and unnecessarily leaving them suffering, but also increase the risk of injury to ambulance officers or the volunteers as well as possible further injury or suffering of the patient by using volunteers who are not properly trained or experienced in Ambulance Service procedures.”
Mr Hull says the community is entitled to have an emergency service that is efficient and responsive and is able to deliver the appropriate care and support by paramedics rather than volunteers who are not comfortable in assisting in these situations.
“If you call for an ambulance you are entitled to expect paramedics to arrive not the volunteer fire service,” he said.