Ambulance crews prepare to take an injured bushwalker to hospital after the Westpac Rescue Helicopter arrived in Lismore.
Ambulance crews prepare to take an injured bushwalker to hospital after the Westpac Rescue Helicopter arrived in Lismore.

Ambulance delays referred to review

HEALTH Minister Jillian Skinner has referred prolonged ambulance response times in Northern NSW to the independent state-wide review of the Ambulance Service.

This follows a succession of frustrated paramedics bravely speaking out against a new overtime policy that was having fatal consequences.

In response to questions from The Northern Star yesterday, Ms Skinner said the recent issue surrounding prolonged response times in the area was a concern.

"I have asked that the recent spate of incidents in Northern NSW involving the deployment of paramedics be examined as part of the state-wide review of the Ambulance Service," Minister Skinner said.

"If current protocols are found to be wanting they will be changed, because the best model of care available must be the model we use."

The independent review was announced earlier this year but in light of the blown-out re- sponse times and criticism of the management of ambulance resources in the region in recent months, these incidents will also be looked at.

Ballina MP Don Page was concerned ambulances were not available to respond to emergencies.

In August, a man had a cardiac arrest on a footpath in Murwillumbah and died after he had to wait 27 minutes for an ambulance crew because the town's designated ambulance was sent to do a hospital transfer.

On another occasion, a Maclean ambulance was called to a man with chest pain in South Grafton, despite the urgent incident being half an hour away. The man had a cardiac arrest and died.

Ms Skinner said the review would also look at despatch models for aero-medical retrieval services and new on-duty guidelines.

This follows a serious car crash on the Pacific Highway at Tabbimoble last month where a paramedic's request for a helicopter to the seven-patient crash was denied twice.

Due to a lack of resources, one paramedic was forced to put two child patients on one stretcher and another paramedic was forced to sit a patient with facial injuries sitting upright in the front seat.

The Ambulance Service previously told The Northern Star that new on-call guidelines using duty crews from 24-hour stations for non-urgent cases had been implemented across all NSW.


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