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'So distressing': Injured woman's lengthy wait for ambulance

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UPDATED: A 92-year-old woman who fell and broke her hip waited in agony on the floor of her nursing home for more than two hours for an ambulance to take her to a nearby hospital, with the paramedics union stating there were “no ambulances to send” to multiple emergencies.

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The union says it was one of many cases that ambulances struggled to reach yesterday, forcing the service to declare an “OPSTAT Red event” signalling a threat to patient safety.

The SA Ambulance Service says its thoughts are with the woman and her family and it “understands the distress that occurs when ambulances do not arrive as quickly as is liked”.

The woman’s daughter, Debbie, told ABC radio this morning that staff at the nursing home called an ambulance and did their best to comfort her mother after she fell about 4.45pm yesterday afternoon.

But she said the ambulance didn’t arrive until 7pm – more than two hours later – to take her to the Lyell McEwin Hospital.

“My sister got a phone call from the care home about a quarter to five saying she’d had a fall and she was in pain; she’d bashed her head and she’d hurt her hip, she was in too much pain for them to move her and they called an ambulance,” Debbie said.

“My sister went down there … they couldn’t move her, she was in too much pain so they made her comfortable on the floor. The ambulance finally arrived at 7 o’clock.

“A 92-year-old with a broken hip, they found out that that’s what happened, on the floor in a care home trying to be comforted by the staff for two and a half hours.”

Debbie said “it’s not the ambos’ fault, it’s the system”.

“It’s just so distressing, you know, for families and for the patient especially to … wait that long for something that would have to be a priority.”

Debbie said her mother was expected to have surgery this morning.

She said the staff at her mother’s nursing home were “wonderful” and “would have done everything that they could have done for her”.

The Ambulance Employees Association said the case was one of “multiple” emergencies “with no ambulances to send” during a day of extreme ramping and hospital overcrowding.

The union said an ambulance should have arrived to help the woman within 30 minutes.

In a post on facebook, the union said SA Ambulance “did not have sufficient resources to promptly attend Triple Zero calls” yesterday.

“By 7pm SA Ambulance declared an OPSTAT Red event which is defined as ‘Levels of demand are having a sustained impact on SAAS ability to deliver safe, quality patient services’,” the union said.

“There were multiple uncovered emergency cases with no ambulances to send and significant ramping at our hospitals, with many patients ramped for nearly 6 hours.

“These are the real-life impacts of the chronic under-resourcing of our ambulance service and hospitals.”

The union’s acting secretary, Josh Karpowicz, told InDaily the woman’s case was “another disheartening example of the under-resourcing of our ambulance service by the Marshall Government”.

“Our ambulance service continues to struggle to meet demand on a daily basis with more and more of these cases appearing,” he said.

“We continue to see ramping worsen at our public hospitals.

“What is needed is more capacity in our health system with a greater emphasis on hospital beds, not just emergency departments.”

The SA Ambulance Service said it experienced a significant workload yesterday, which was further impacted by transfer of care delays.

“Our thoughts are with this patient and her family and we wish her a swift recovery,” a spokesperson said.

“We recognise the demand for ambulance services across South Australia and understand the distress that occurs when ambulances do not arrive as quickly as is liked.”

The spokesperson said each Triple Zero call was prioritised, with the sickest patients seen first.

“Patients who need to wait for an ambulance response receive regular advice from experienced SAAS clinicians to ensure that they remain stable,” the spokesperson said.

“In this case the patient was being cared for by nursing staff at the care home and our paramedics stayed in touch with them, ready to upgrade the case should the patient have deteriorated.

“SAAS continues to focus on providing exceptional care to South Australians and on improving response capacity, through additional resources being provided and the promotion of alternative pathways for those who do not require emergency department care.”

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas called on the State Government to explain how such a situation could occur.

He said it was another example of the state’s overrun health system.

“It’s the personal stories which really drive home the horror of the Marshall Liberal Government’s ramping crisis,” he said.

“It is completely unacceptable for a 92-year-old woman to be left lying on the floor for more than two hours waiting for an ambulance when she lives just five minutes from a major metropolitan hospital. The Marshall Liberal Government must provide a full explanation of how this happened.”

Malinauskas said there were more than 100 people waiting for a bed this morning across Adelaide’s emergency departments.

A State Government spokesperson said “the Marshall Liberal Government is delivering a record $7.4 billion health spend”.

“There is no denying that more capacity is needed in our Emergency Departments (EDs), and that’s exactly what we are delivering as we continue our landmark $3 billion hospital build program,” the spokesperson said.

“The Marshall Government is delivering more beds, including more than 140 treatment spaces across our metropolitan and peri-urban EDs.

“This is complemented by nearly 200 additional ambulance service personnel that have come into our ranks in our first three years in government.”

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