EDITORIAL: Ambulance wait times a lottery for which you do not want a ticket

NSW Ambulance is faced with a conundrum: while implementing a 24-hour ambulance service to SERH, doubling the staff at the Merimbula station and reducing unacceptably high hours worked every week by Merimbula paramedics, they have failed the local community.

The new roster provides a night shift for the least busy time while taking away resources from the busier day roster.

This was never something our local paramedics wanted to see happen because it means that when you need an ambulance, the nearest one may be in Eden or even Bega. In the case of a cardiac arrest that extra time could be life or death and in the case of a stroke could compromise patient recovery.

Trish Moxon knew her husband Keith was not well. The time the ambulance took to arrive may or may not have had a bearing on the tragic outcome, but as she said, that is not the point. It was classed as the most serious triple 000 call, but for 19 long minutes Trish was alone giving CPR to her husband.

“I hope that some other soul does not have to go through my experience of trying to revive a loved one while waiting for an essential service to arrive,” she said.

It is hard to believe that just three days later Trish had to wait again for an ambulance to come from Eden to attend to her mother.

If there is only one Merimbula ambulance crew on duty during the day and they are at SERH, then an Eden ambulance will be called. This fact alone makes it clear that response times will increase.

This is no fault of the paramedics; this is the roster they have been told to use.

Despite doubling paramedic staff at Merimbula, we are now in a worse situation and it is time for NSW Ambulance to find a better way through this dilemma. There’s little point in having a shiny new hospital if we can’t get there in an appropriate timeframe.

This roster is only being used in two places, Merimbula and Maclean where similar results have been experienced according to the Australian Paramedics Association.

They and the paramedics branch of the HSU have both suggested alternative rostering arrangements that might help to place more paramedics in ambulances during the busiest times without the toll on weekly hours that paramedics were faced with previously.

Surely it must be time to review rosters before anyone else has to face what Trish Moxon experienced as she waited for an ambulance to come from Eden.