Paramedics frustrated with non-urgent triple zero calls
AS THE population of the Clarence Valley ages, and the workload on NSW Ambulance paramedics increases, their efforts are being hindered by calls to 000 for non-urgent emergencies, soaking up valuable time and resources.
New figures from NSW Ambulance show a high number of people have contacted 000 for an ambulance in the past year to treat relatively minor problems like sprains, headaches, hiccups and sleeplessness, and NSW Ambulance Grafton station officer Tim Bestwick said the problem is on the rise.
"I think it's happening all the way through the Clarence, in town and out, and sometimes people use different reasons to call an ambulance that aren't in the interest of the emergency service and what we're here for," he said.
"Paramedics are highly trained to save lives and use our skills when people in the community are in dire straits, when they're desperately ill or severely injured, to so to use paramedics to get a trip to hospital is sometimes not really in the community spirit and what emergency services are for.
"Since ambulance work is increasing, people have to be smarter in how we use this service. The last thing you want to do was call an ambulance for something that isn't an emergency when we could be at a serious traumatic event.
"An ambulance is for when something bad has happened, and something good needs to happen very soon."
Mr Bestwick said a common misconception is that if someone calls an ambulance, they will get priority treatment on arrival at hospital, or are able to use an ambulance like a taxi to the hospital.
"Nurses use the triage system to take priority cases first, so if it's not an emergency you'll be waiting at the hospital like everybody else," he said.
"The bottom line is there's lots of odd calls that most members of the public would be shocked to hear that we get called to.
"I know it can be hard to see a GP, but most clinics have emergency appointments in the morning if they're sick and need to see a doctor today but it's not necessarily bad enough to go to an emergency department.
"A lot of people, if they use their common sense and make the effort to see the doctor they can get the care they need and can leave the ambulance for when they desperately need it."
Mr Bestwick said 000 should be called immediately with symptoms of chest pain, unconsciousness, severe blood loss or if someone has stopped breathing. For other symptoms, such as abdominal pain and diarrhoea, people can call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222 to speak to a nurse about their symptoms and get advice.
Across the state in the 2015-16, 239 people called 000 because they "can't sleep", 540 for toothache, 287 for earache, 93 for sore throats, 61 because they were itchy and 10 for hiccups.