Emergency services have been called to a crash in the northbound lanes of the Bruce Hwy at Tanawha.
Emergency services have been called to a crash in the northbound lanes of the Bruce Hwy at Tanawha. Alistair Brightman

Calls for ambulance in Grafton after patient waits hours

AN ANXIOUS wait for a bariatric ambulance has prompted a Grafton man to call for one to be based in the Clarence Valley.

Barry Ward's wife Judith, a Grafton nursing home patient, had to wait hours for a bariatric ambulance, or Multi-Purpose Vehicle (MPV), to transport her to hospital on June 1 after she developed an infection in her foot.

MPV general ambulances are engineered with the capability to transport patients who weigh up to 300 kilograms, while MPV specialist ambulances can transport patients who weigh up to 500kg.

The closest vehicles are stationed at Coffs Harbour and Lismore, and on the day Mrs Ward needed it she was advised an immediate response would not be available as both vehicles were booked for more urgent cases.

A NSW Ambulance spokesman said in the meantime, clinicians from Grafton District Hospital - which is on the same block as the nursing home she lives in - responded to the patient at home.

"These clinicians determined the patient still needed to be transported to hospital and advised NSW Ambulance that she was stable enough to wait until the MPV arrived," the spokesman said.

A NSW Ambulance MPV transported her to Grafton Base hospital about 10pm.

While his wife is now on the mend thanks to an operation and antibiotics, Mr Ward said he thought that if she'd been in dire need, she could have died.

"(My wife's) a big girl and has had a stroke so she can't move," he said.

"Say you had an able healthy person of her size and something happened, if they needed to get to hospital would a normal ambulance be able to take them?"

Prior to last year, the Coffs Harbour vehicle was the only regional MPV general ambulance in the area. Last financial year, 1261 transports were undertaken by paramedics in MPV specialist ambulances in the state - an increase of 16% on the previous year.

The NSW Ambulance spokesman said a vast majority of bariatric patients did not require urgent care.

"When appropriate, resources can be dynamically deployed from other areas to support local demand."

Grafton Aged Care's deputy director of nursing Julie Spicer said they had three residents who required MPVs, but so far hadn't had any problem with availability.



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