Health

Record ambulance ramping

BY EMILY DENHAM

In September ambulance ramping reached a record of 1368.4 hours and on one day 26 of the 48 ambulances in the metropolitan area were ramped.

OVERWORKED: Frustration for emergency workers as ambulances are called out for ‘ridiculous’ reasons.

Reasons for ambulance callouts are becoming “ridiculous” and contributing to record emergency department ramping hours, according to the WA ambulance union.

The Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers’ Union assistant secretary Carolyn Smith said members were called out for reasons including people being cold, not being able to sleep and having sore armpits.

“Our members believe many of these people would be better taken to a GP,” she said.

“[They] believe that the ambulance service should be run by the Government… but failing that there should be a lot more co-ordination between the Health Department and the ambulance service.”

The State Government has announced it will provide $145,000 for research into improving health care options and reducing emergency department (ED) waiting and admission times.

WA Health Minister Kim Hames said projects aimed at reducing non-urgent arrivals by providing alternative care for patients with non-life-threatening conditions which did not require hospital treatment.

“Instead of transporting these patients to EDs by ambulance, researchers will develop a process for St John Ambulance Australia WA to refer them to Silver Chain Nursing Association’s Home Hospital Service,” Dr Hames said.

Australasian College of Emergency Medicine president Sally McCarthy said ambulance ramping was due to a lack of beds rather than non-urgent arrivals because patients who could walk were immediately moved to emergency waiting rooms.

“The main cause of pressure on emergency departments around Australia is that they have to hold patients in need of admission to hospital because there are not enough beds immediately available in the hospital,” she said.

She said the answer to reducing non-urgent patients lay in addressing public health issues, improving co-ordination of allied health and community services and providing better aged care.

“It’s really attending to people with chronic illnesses, addressing public health issues like obesity and other public health issues so we don’t all need to come to hospital as much as we do now,” she said.

St John Ambulance WA chief executive officer Tony Ahern said the company was working closely with the government to maintain ambulance numbers for people needing emergency care.

Published in the Western Independent October 2010

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