Non-urgent calls putting lives at risk

AMBULANCES are for when something bad has happened in the last few minutes, and something good needs to happen in the next few minutes.

This is the message from Grafton Ambulance Station manager Timothy Bestwick, as the ambulance service in the Clarence Valley faces a dangerous trend of an increasing number of calls for non-urgent medical conditions, which are putting people's lives at risk by creating delays for paramedics to attend genuine emergencies.

As few as one in ten calls to the ambulance service is for genuine life threatening emergencies. This misuse of the ambulance service has prompted Mr Bestwick to call for people to consider whether their medical situation is serious enough to warrant a call for an ambulance.

S"There's only a finite number of ambulances out there, and if they're caught up doing routine medical calls when for example a car accident happens, then we're not there to respond to life threatening problems," he said.

"Ambulances have always been for emergencies. It seems that the general public throughout NSW have slowly started moving towards using the ambulance service in non-emergency situations or for medical conditions that aren't really classed as an emergency.

"In Grafton, all the paramedics see it, it's just been creeping up and getting worse over the years."

Mr Bestwick said there have been cases where Grafton paramedics have been tied up attending call outs when a far more serious emergency has taken place.

"In those cases, we've had to get ambulances come from nearby towns like Maclean or Woolgoolga to cover that job because we've been busy," he said.

"That creates a longer delay than necessary, which is potentially life risking if paramedics can't get there in time."

Mr Bestwick said people should gauge themselves and their condition and consider if their medical problem is actually an emergency.

"There are a number of other resources people can use to get medical help," he said.

"Health Direct is a great resource to call and speak to a registered nurse to get reassurance or guidance on any particular medical condition or injury.

"There's also your local pharmacist and your GP, who are also in a position to give advice."

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