‘Truly scary’: New low in ambulance crisis

A 10-year-old who needed immediate health care to save their life had to wait almost 30 minutes for assistance, in a new escalation of SA’s ambulance crisis.

A 10-year-old who required emergency response to save their life was one of many patients forced to wait for an ambulance as South Australia grapples with its ongoing ramping crisis.

A triple-0 call was made at 11.03am on Sunday involving the child who was triaged as priority one; meaning there was an immediate threat to life and needed emergency response within eight minutes.

But, the Emergency Operations Centre struggled to find available ambulances to respond and care for the young patient.

It was not until 11 minutes after the triple-0 call was received that a single responding paramedic attended the Woodforde address.

After an ambulance was made available, a crew from Oakden was dispatched and arrived at 11.26am — just under half an hour after the call for help.

Ambulance Employees Association (AEA) secretary Phil Palmer said the union “hoped the child survived” but were unsure of the outcome once they were taken to hospital.

Ramping is where ambulances are taken off the roads because a paramedic must stay with their patient until they can be admitted to hospital. Lengthening wait times in emergency departments have seen vehicles left unavailable for hours at a time.

Ambulances were ramped across Adelaide’s public hospital emergency departments on Sunday and Monday.

There were 135 patients across public metropolitan EDs waiting to be admitted on Monday.

There were also 111 people waiting for a bed on Tuesday; including 23 mental health patients who had waited more than eight hours.

According to the AEA, 14 ambulances were ramped at the Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide’s south around midday on Monday where a ‘Code Yellow’ was called due to the demand; meaning an internal emergency or disaster.

Mr Palmer also revealed that all public hospitals were at a ‘Code White’ in their EDs — which meant every hospital ED was at or over capacity — while the entire Lyell McEwin Hospital in Adelaide’s North reached that category.

The AEA said the flow-on effects of “inadequate” capacity in SA hospitals was ”dangerous” for the community.

“The ramping gets worse, the shortage of ambulances compounds the problem of ramping. It’s a double whammy,’ Mr Palmer said.

“This is what our members are dealing with.

“People have already lost lives because of a lack of ambulances and unfortunately … this will go on for quite some time.”

Mr Palmer said the crisis would be exacerbated once the flu season was underway.

He said there was a physiological impact “breaking” many staff members, forcing some to quit their jobs.

The union boss hit back at the state government, saying it needed to fix the problem and stop hiding from or spinning the truth.

He said it entered a “Trump era” of politics where its politicians said “whatever got them through the moment”.

“There is a constant talk of a surge. This is a surge that’s been going on to a better part of a decade.

“They can see that the ability to care is being physically held back by a government that won’t fund properly or fix the situation.

“We’re raising this because we’re alarmed and we believe the community should be too.”

Health Minister Stephen Wade said he was advised by Flinders Medical Centre management that there was no ‘Code Yellow’ called at the hospital on Monday.

But he said if the advice he received was incorrect he would be happy to “correct the record”.

“I rely on my management and my team to provide me accurate advice. I have no reason to believe that advice was incorrect,” Mr Wade told reporters.

“I’m very hopeful we can have this resolved quickly because roster reform is a very important part of making sure we have a better ambulance service that’s more able to respond to demand when it comes.

“We currently have a situation where we have a large proportion of ambulance fleet coming off the road at a time when we often have got increasing demand.”

SA opposition health spokesman Chris Picton said not having available ambulances to attend call outs was a “truly scary” situation and that the state government’s approach to health was a “recipe for disaster”.

“This government have had multiple warnings yet they haven’t stopped their cuts … haven’t invested any more money in the ambulance service despite the fact every other state are doing so,” he said.

“They’re not listening to the doctors and nurses who are urgently calling for action to save people’s lives.”

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