90-minute wait for ambulance

St John staff carry an injured woman into an ambulance in Green Island yesterday. PHOTO: PETER...
St John staff carry an injured woman into an ambulance in Green Island yesterday. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
An elderly woman who tripped and fell in Green Island’s main street yesterday waited an hour and a-half for an ambulance.

A caller to the Otago Daily Times about noon said the woman, who was covered in blankets and being attended to by passers-by, had been lying on the ground for an hour and an ambulance had still not arrived.

Another witness, who did not want to be identified, said the woman tripped while crossing the street.

Multiple people had called 111, and passers-by were looking after the woman, who was clearly in "a lot of pain".

"Everyone was making sure she was OK."

People did not want to move her until the ambulance arrived.

The witness understood one of the people on the scene tending to the injured woman was a doctor, who had been going past.

An ambulance arrived about 12.30pm and left with the injured woman about 12.45pm.

St John coastal Otago territory manager Doug Third confirmed it received a call relating to the patient about 11am.

The patient’s condition was assessed by the emergency call handler as "appears serious, but not immediately life threatening".

It was always St John’s objective to respond as soon as possible with an ambulance if required, Mr Third said.

However, in some cases, as with this case, when all available ambulance resources were committed to other incidents, there might be a delay in responding to a non-life-threatening incident.

Any delay in ambulance response was regrettable and could cause distress, and St John acknowledged that in this case it did not meet the 111 caller’s expectations, he said.

St John took patient welfare "very seriously" and encouraged the patient to be in direct contact with it if they were not satisfied with their treatment or care.

His comments closely resembled those supplied by St John rural Otago territory manager David Milne last week after a Balclutha pensioner waited three hours for an ambulance after falling in her garden and cutting her arm.

She lay in her garden, according to St John’s advice, but after three hours and multiple more calls to St John, friends called a local police officer, who came and helped get her out. Her son then drove her to Dunedin Hospital.

All available ambulance resources were committed to other incidents at the time, and in those cases there might be a delay in responding to a non-life-threatening incident.

That had been the case that day, Mr Milne said.

 - Wyatt Ryder


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It is ridiculous that such a critical, core service, relies on donations and volunteers. Ambulance services should be centrally funded and funded to the extent they can meet acceptable performance standards.

For what you want then it would have to be a govt run service. The problem is the public have no appetite yet to lose St John. What the public and media don't know is St John put in for commercial tenders to run the service - hence the govt can only pay them the tender rate and cannot "fully" fund them what they want. For St John to keep their badge on ambulances they have to operate as a charity and therefore accept donations and use volunteers. But most cannot get their heads around that so rushed off and signed Pauline Latta's petition!

Here we go again.
The govt won’t run the ambulance service themselves while the public love their St John.
Many of you recently signed a petition to “fully fund St John” when you are ignorant to the fact St John put in for commercial tenders to provide.
The problem today is that St John put the emphasis on quality over quantity.
(1) They will put several ambulances on the one job to provide the best of care, while others miss out
(2) spend too long on scene, as it’s all about that particular patient.
In fact the road staff have no idea these days what else is banking up around town as that is Controls job
(3) a problem the UK services call “ramping” where hospitals won’t accept patients until they are ready, so ambulances have to wait over an hour with a patient stuck in the ambulance, so not available for a waiting job.
Rather than say pre written PR statements like “when all available ambulance resources were committed to other incidents” – instead say where were the ambulances at that time and what were they doing? Honesty goes a long way.
Maybe that’s what the media should demand of them.

I have heard a rumour about the number of Ambulance's and crew Dunedin has, but maybe someone from St Johns might like to confirm the true numbers for me.

If the numbers I have are correct, then something needs to be done about it.

Please be aware I'm in no way critising St Johns or the crews who do an amazing job helping the residents of Dunedin.

4 ambulances. 8 (24/7) crew to an ambulance.

My elderly husband had a fall in Roslyn. Despite calls for the ambulance from passers by (a pharmacist and a doctor), no ambulance came. Nearly one hour later after lying in the rain he was assisted into a car and taken to ED. 1 year later he is still suffering pain- that's the reality.

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