Sunday Tasmanian

LIVES ON THE LINE

AMBULANCE RAMPING BRINGS HEARTBREAK TO FAMILIES

- CAMERON WHITELEY cameron.whiteley@news.com.au

AMBULANCE ramping at Royal Hobart Hospital – and its traumatic consequenc­es – has again reared its head.

The union representi­ng ambulance workers has confirmed to the Sunday Tasmanian a patient who died last week from cardiac arrest after calling an ambulance complainin­g of chest pain may have been saved if paramedics were not stuck ramped at the hospital.

And a 70-year-old Brighton woman who fell at her home and fractured her pelvis in three places waited almost seven hours for an ambulance to arrive.

A PATIENT who died last week after calling an ambulance complainin­g of chest pain may have been saved if paramedics were not stuck ramped at the Royal Hobart Hospital, the union representi­ng ambulance workers says.

The Health and Community Services Union says the patient’s death happened on Tuesday night, when it says Ambulance Tasmania was at least two crews short in the southern region and it was a bad night for ramping.

The tragedy comes after a 70-year-old Brighton woman fell at her home this month and fractured her pelvis in three places. She waited almost seven hours for an ambulance to arrive, only to be told the crew that arrived had been ramped at the RHH.

The woman’s partner said she waited in “extreme pain” for hours and he was outraged that the health system was failing residents so dramatical­ly.

HACSU said the patient from South Hobart reporting chest pain called triple-0 about 9pm and was told they would get the next ready ambulance.

A callback was initiated about 15 minutes later which the patient did not answer, and the union said it took about 17 minutes for a dispatch to be organised, including a demand that a crew be released from the hospital.

The crew arrived four minutes after leaving the ramp and let themselves in, discoverin­g the patient unconsciou­s and not breathing.

The patient was found to have suffered a cardiac arrest and could not be saved.

HACSU acting state secretary Robbie Moore said the case was alarming.

“Had the ambulance got there sooner, there may have been a better outcome,’’ he said. “We’ll never know that … but it further highlights what a significan­t issue ramping is because it does put the community at risk.”

Mr Moore said the ambulance service could not trigger an escalation surge level that would enable crews to be released from the RHH, because the communicat­ions teams were too busy taking calls.

Federal Member for Clark Andrew Wilkie said he was horrified by the case of the woman who waited almost seven hours and wrote to Premier Peter Gutwein on Thursday with his concerns.

“Ambulance ramping at the Royal Hobart Hospital is risking lives, and I fear that if nothing is done to address this choke on Tasmania’s health system it’s only a matter of time before more people die,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

A state government spokeswoma­n said Ambulance Tasmania had started rolling out secondary triage this month, which meant more paramedics would be available to attend to the most urgent of call-outs.

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