Woman's death prompts questions about paramedics

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
Questions have been raised concerning the actions of paramedics, following the sudden death of a Milton woman in her 50s last week.

The January 15 incident came to light after a reliable source contacted the Otago Daily Times this week claiming the woman may have died as a result of a lack of action by two paramedics who initially attended the scene.

A second source contacted by the Otago Daily Times alleged the paramedics had waited more than an hour before the property was entered and the patient found, by which time efforts to resuscitate the woman, who is believed to have had a heart attack, were unsuccessful.

Two of the woman's sons were also believed to be asleep in the house at the time.

The incident began when, after feeling unwell during the early hours of the morning, the 55-year-old woman set off her medical alarm, triggering an automatic ambulance callout from St John.

It was not clear whether the ambulance came from Milton or Balclutha, but its two female officers are thought to have arrived at the scene about 4.30am.

The informant said, after initially entering the property and failing to find the woman, the officers became ''spooked'' for unknown reasons, and left the house to remain in their ambulance.

A second crew from Mosgiel was summoned, but also remained outside the house while a call was put in to police for support at the scene.

The informant said an on-call officer from Balclutha arrived about 5.30am and immediately entered the property, quickly locating the woman in the rear of the house.

No danger to emergency service personnel had been identified at that time.

Although the woman was believed to suffer from several medical conditions, the informant questioned whether more decisive action on the part of paramedics might have prevented her death.

''I believe the fault here lies with the ambulance crew. It's just not good enough,'' the source said.

St John confirmed an incident had occurred, but declined to comment further.

''St John can confirm ambulance officers did attend a callout at a Milton address on the morning of January 15. Given the matter is now before the coroner, we are unable to comment further at this stage,'' rural Otago territory manager James Stewart said.

Balclutha police also declined to comment in detail on the matter, but confirmed the Milton and Balclutha stations were unmanned at the time of the alleged incident, in line with standard operating procedure.

Family members said the woman was a ''much-loved mother, sister and Nanny'', and would be missed by all who knew her.

However, they declined to answer questions about the circumstances leading to her death, ''until a report from the coroner's office is released and inquiries with the police have concluded''.



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The fact that the alarm was used tends to point to the failure of the Ambulance Communications centre failing to provide the correct information which would have been held on file. This is a common , occurring theme experienced by many callers to the communications centre. The system used by St John is severely flawed.

Is there no overnight police presence at Milton or Clutha?

The ambulance officers will have their story.
They entered unknown territory at night. They are not negligent, but attending medics are vulnerable to attack from public.

Is there no male/female crewing, which is the practice elsewhere?

Thats not really the issue GIR.

the fact of the matter is that the officers felt that their safety was of concern and did the right thing and removed themselves. their safety is paramount. obviously there was reason to be "spooked"
Just because they are elderly doesnt mean they are free from the nasties of our society. the alarm system has been used many times by the elderly who have awoken and found intruders in their house. Its easier to push the button than the phone. Guaranteed to get help a;lbeit an ambulance crew
Many a time Paramedics have been the first to arrive inside a house to find that it is a crime scene
Yes its unfortunate circumstances. don't blame the Paramedics,
I actually blame the reporter who is going off half cocked and scaremongering.
We are very fortunate to have a dedicated ambulance service, If there is fault, then let the coroner do his job
comments like yours have only fueled what the reporter wanted to acheive.

Yes there are a real number of "truths" to be uncovered here. But I am fairly sure St John will never reveal the true story. They have a long history of avoiding public scrutiny.
It is well and truly time New Zealand got rid of this semi amateur organisation and ran Ambulance either as a separate government department or as part of Police or Fire.

Actually the Paramedics are very professional and one of the most highly trained amongst world standards.
If you have had an unfortunate chance to see this first hand then Im sure you would agree.
To answer your question about totally govt funding, are you prepared
to put your hand in your tax pocket and pay for it.
I probably agree with you that it should be funded, but don't slag individuals that are doing the best they can to help you and your family

St John is a charity, from the Order of St John, Malta.

The charity sector does essential work that is the responsibility of governments, in the First World.

In is recognised, that, were there no charities, there would be widespread civil disturbance.

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