Patient dies waiting for ambulance
TEN minutes killed Carol Davison.
That's the gap between when Mrs Davison's husband, Robert, of Banora Point, says overstretched paramedics ought to have arrived to help his wife as she suffered a heart attack after a car crash on April 30 and when they did arrive - 20 minutes after they had been called.
“As far as I'm concerned, if she had a heart attack and it took them 20 minutes to get there, well if they'd got there in 10 minutes it could've been a different story and she'd still be alive today,” a grief-stricken Mr Davison said.
Mrs Davison, 63, was one of two locals over the past three months to die from heart attacks while waiting for an ambulance, according to incident reports obtained by The Northern Star.
The other was a 48-year-old man at Ocean Shores, who went into cardiac arrest in March.
The ambulance reports obtained by The Star paint a devastating picture of overworked, fatigued paramedics routinely leaving Northern Rivers towns uncovered while they are sent away to transfer patients from their homes to hospital for regular treatment.
On March 1 this year, the police and fire brigade were the first to respond to the Ocean Shores man when he suffered a heart attack.
They performed CPR before the arrival of the Kingscliff ambulance, which was in Tweed Heads after a patient transfer.
The man died.
A spokesman for the Ambulance Service of NSW said there were only two officers on call each night at both Byron and Mullumbimby, and they were on other cases. Kingscliff paramedics were sent to the incident, he said.
“All local resources were being utilised.”
Another incident report describes how police in Tweed Heads were forced to try to resuscitate Mrs Davison for 20 minutes after a head-on car crash on April 30 because the local ambulance officers were rushed off their feet else- where.
There were no on-call paramedics rostered on, as had been the practice in previous years, the report said.
Mrs Davison died after going into cardiac arrest.
The ambulance service spokesman said both the Tweed Heads crews were busy.
“One Tweed Heads vehicle was at a stabbing,” he said.
The second crew was sent to the case from John Flynn Hospital, and the Kingscliff crew, the next closest, was on its way to John Flynn with a patient suffering chest pain, he said.
Also according to the incident reports, a Cabarita patient diagnosed with tetanus waited six-and-a-half hours for an ambulance because they 'kept being placed at the end of the queue'.
But the ambulance service said the case was not an emergency.
“Therefore the first available ambulance was responded when resources were clear of attending emergency incidents,” the spokesman said.
The Health Services' Union, which represents ambulance officers, said it wanted to discuss the incidents with the ambulance service.
Northern Rivers paramedics felt a sense of professional grief when a patient died in their home town and they could not be there to help, HSU North Coast organiser Ken McIntosh said.
“A lot of the ambulance officers are citizens of the town and they often know everyone in the town, so they're feeling remorse for the patient who's passed away, as well as the family,” he said.