Patients rushed to hospital have been forced to wait for up to two hours on stretchers, leaving other triple-0 callers at risk, due to a shortage of hospital beds in Albury and Wodonga public hospitals.
Albury paramedic and Australian Paramedic Association delegate James Kydd said he had personally waited with patients outside for about two hours until a bed became available.
He said paramedics had a duty to stay with their patient until a was bed found and the person was admitted.
“There’s always the possibility it does delay patient care,” he said.
“From our perspective you want to be available when that next job comes in.
“You never know what the patient may be going through.
“With delays sometimes we go to cases where an old lady has been on the ground with a broken hip for an hour in considerable pain.”
He said Albury Base Hospital has been on ‘code red’ status numerous times in past weeks, with non-trauma or severe patients diverted to Wodonga.
Mr Kydd said Wodonga hospital too had been put on ‘code red’ status, as both hospitals struggled to find beds to admit patients.
Mr Kydd said hospital and emergency room staff across the Border did an outstanding job and their utmost to ensure paramedics are on the road as soon as possible, but there simply weren’t enough beds.
“The only way around it is to provide the hospital with more resources,” he said.
Mr Kydd said in the three years he’s worked on the Border, every winter there has been a bed issue.
“Unfortunately during the winter period there are huge extra demands placed on the hospital system with little or no extra surge capacity,” he said.
Ambulance Employee Union secretary Steve McGhie said Wodonga staff had not alerted him to a ‘bed block’ or ‘ramping’ issue, but they weren’t uncommon.
“Certainly if it’s happening if affects ambulances response time,” he said.
“The longer it takes a paramedic crew to do that it’s time they’re potentially out of service and the greater the risk they won't have the chance to respond to emergencies.”
NSW Ambulance Service's Murrumbidgee acting Inspector John Larter said when a ‘bed block’ occurs it puts pressure on paramedics and resources.
“Well, obviously we can't respond when triple-0 calls come in, it's a large affect on service delivery and it's very difficult for us,” he said.
“In regional centres we have got limited staffing as it is so have to look at other options and have to recall staff to duty – it's difficult.”
Albury-Wodonga Health were contacted for comment.