For a major regional city the size of Albury it is a scenario that most would find difficult to comprehend.
And yet it was happened this week on Tuesday night – one paramedic and one ambulance to respond to emergencies for about 90 minutes.
To the layman this would appear to be an untenable situation.
After all, we are all exhorted to phone Triple-0 in a medical emergency, but from what the Australian Paramedic Association says, such a call would not necessarily have resulted in the desired result.
By that we simply refer to the need for an ambulance to arrive on your doorstep in a timely manner befitting such an emergency.
The problem, according to the association, was that three Albury crews that night were on a bed block at Albury hospital.
One other crew was in service, though it was on a retrieval. That left just the single paramedic and a lone ambulance available.
In that time any manner of emergencies could have arisen – a couple of cardiac arrests, or a serious traffic accident involving multiple patients.
The situation on Tuesday was therefore reasonably described by association delegate and Albury paramedic James Kydd as one “endangering patients and paramedics”.
“Acutely unwell patients frequently require a team of paramedics to treat them successfully,” Mr Kydd says, though what happened is not down to the ambulance service.
Clearly there were reasonable numbers of paramedics on duty and for any given night would appear to have been sufficient to cope with a reasonable demand from the public.
Where the situation appears to have gone horribly pear-shaped is when the paramedics have pretty much completed their job – delivering a patient to Albury hospital.
That there can be bed blocks at the hospital draws into question the resourcing at the hospital itself.
Certainly stories of people having to wait for a bed to become available before they can be admitted are not uncommon.
No doubt patients triaged as requiring emergency treatment would be addressed without delay, but equally anyone who is still sufficiently unwell to require being transported by paramedics should not have to unduly wait for admission.
Tuesday night’s events simply should not have been allowed to happen and we would hope these matters are properly addressed to prevent any repeat.