‘I’ve never seen it so bad’: Emergency cases remain on hold amid surge in demand for ambulances

There were 42 serious emergencies left uncovered across South Australia overnight, with some patients waiting more than six hours for an ambulance to arrive, according to the ambulance union, as the ambulance service admits that it is “undoubtedly facing unprecedented demand”.

As South Australia grapples with an outbreak of Omicron which has seen hundreds of hospitalizations with COVID-19, the Ambulance Employees Association said at 7.45pm and 9pm last night that there is had 42 priority two emergencies – requiring assistance within 16 minutes – for which there was no ambulance to dispatch.

The union also said Thursday marked the 11and day after day, the ambulance service declared an ‘Opstat White’ event, meaning that ‘operational capacity, capacity and/or resources are insufficient to maintain effective service delivery for high acuity cases’ .

AEA General Secretary Leah Watkins said it was “the worst night we’ve ever had”.

“There was an unconscious collapse [patient] who at that time [7:45pm] had already waited four hours,” she said.

“There was a patient with cardiac issues who waited 5.5 hours and a priority two fall case who waited six and a half hours.

“I’ve never seen him so bad.

“The concept of priority two waiting without an ambulance to be dispatched for a long time had never been an issue until about a year ago.

“About six months ago it was mind-boggling to hear that it had hit a record high of 20 cases…and then very quickly we went to this situation of 42 cases on hold with no ambulance to send.”

According to the union, 48 other lower priority calls were on hold at the peak of demand.

As of 11 p.m., there were still 20 priority two cases on hold, according to Watkins, although the ambulance service says the priority two backlog had “significantly reduced” by midnight.

There are also currently 85 ambulance service staff who are furloughed or furloughed due to COVID-19.

It comes as the ambulance service implements measures to ‘ration’ ambulance crews to one paramedic and one non-emergency paramedic – as opposed to two paramedics – in a bid to bolster the capacity of the agency to respond to emergencies.

A SA Ambulance Service spokesman said the agency was “undoubtedly facing unprecedented demand” and “it is a difficult time”.

“Once again we received a large number of triple zero calls last night,” the spokesperson said.

“But we need to be clear to the South Australian public that at all times yesterday we continued to ensure that our most urgent Triple Zero (000) calls were prioritized.

“We certainly don’t choose not to respond to cases that require an ambulance, but those that are less severe or less urgent will experience delays.”

SAAS reiterated its continued appeal to the public to seek alternative care if their situation is not an emergency.

“There are many options available, from out-of-hours GP to virtual emergency care service for children and adolescents, COVID information lines and COVID care services,” the carrier said. word.

“Help us help you and contact SAAS when you need an emergency ambulance; save Triple Zero for when it counts.

Health Minister Stephen Wade today said the overnight surge had ‘nothing to do with ambulances on the ramp, and everything to do with a significant number of 000 calls being received’.

He also said the advice from SAAS was that “not [priority one] cases have been left in abeyance, and the number of [priority 2] the pending cases had considerably diminished by midnight”.

“The ramp-up of ambulances last night was at the lower level of what we have seen in recent months,” he said.

“A significant number of bank calls last night were from COVID positive people with mild to moderate symptoms.

“This spike in activity is believed to be related to the rapid antigen tests provided to thousands of close contacts since yesterday.

“We understand that there is currently significant COVID anxiety across South Australia. This is a stressful time for many South Australians, but we encourage people to only call 000 if they need emergency care.

The Minister of Health has indicated that the COVID-19 Response Care Team hotline on 1800 272 872 is a more suitable alternative for those who have contracted the virus and need health support.

“The interventional care team is understandably in high demand right now, so we’re encouraging people to be patient,” Wade said.

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