Ambo response times blow out

PARAMEDICS have stepped up their criticism of the NSW Ambulance Service after more reports of Northern Rivers patients being forced to wait for hours for an ambulance.

Ambulance staff, who told The Northern Star of three recent examples where patients in "extreme pain" waited too long for ambulances, believe these delays would not have happened before the introduction of the NSW Ambulance Service's new on-call guidelines.

None of the three cases were life-threatening.

The new on-call guidelines aim to reduce fatigue in paramedics and their overtime by dispatching on-duty crews from 24-hour stations to non-urgent cases.

On September 30 a woman fell over in her Tyalgum home. Paramedics found her on the floor 75 minutes later.

On another occasion, a kidney dialysis patient called an ambulance from her Myocum home owing to severe leg pain.

She waited almost two-and-a-half hours for an ambulance.

A source told The Northern Star the ambulance control centre informed the woman there was no ambulance available and suggested she drive herself to the hospital.

The Northern Star understands there was an on-call crew available in Mullumbimby.

On October 5 NSW Fire and Rescue personnel were tasked by the NSW Ambulance Service to help an elderly woman who had fallen over in her Tweed Heads home, the Northern Star has been told.

HSU East divisional secretary Gerard Hayes said the ambulance was simply going for the "cheaper option" in using on-duty crews instead of on-call staff.

"They have lost their focus and their moral compass," he said.

The comments also follow the death of a Murwillumbah man who had a cardiac arrest and waited 27 minutes for an ambulance, and a similar case in South Grafton, where a man who had a cardiac arrest waited for an ambulance to respond from Maclean. The man died.

Mr Hayes said the HSU wanted an inquiry into the operations and dispatch procedures of the NSW Ambulance Service.

A NSW Ambulance Service spokesman said "in most cases a broken limb or a person feeling unwell would be treated as non-life threatening and the first available vehicle would be dispatched".

"Paramedics who are paid to be on-call respond to emergencies when and as required," he said.

"The nearest possible on-duty resource is always dispatched to an emergency.

"On-call crews are an essential back up for life threatening situations when duty crews are unavailable or busy with other emergencies."



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