Bed Block: Paramedic and patient speak out

STANDING ROOM ONLY: Ambulances banked up as a result of bed blocks at Albury Base Hospital on Tuesday night. Picture: ALBURY PARAMEDICS
STANDING ROOM ONLY: Ambulances banked up as a result of bed blocks at Albury Base Hospital on Tuesday night. Picture: ALBURY PARAMEDICS

A single paramedic and one ambulance was likely all that was available to respond to emergencies in Albury for about 90 minutes on Tuesday night, “endangering patients and paramedics”.

Albury paramedic and Australian Paramedic Association delegate James Kydd said three Albury crews were on bed block at Albury Base Hospital, with another on a retrieval.

He said this likely left one paramedic covering the Albury region. 

“A single officer response endangers both the paramedic and the patient,” he said. “Acutely unwell patients frequently require a team of paramedics to treat them successfully.”

NSW Ambulance could not confirm staffing or ambulance numbers. 

An Albury Wodonga Health spokeswoman said their emergency departments had 750 more patient presentations already in 2017, than in the same period last year. 

“It is important to note that regardless of demand, acute and critical patients are seen immediately,” she said. “On average NSW Ambulance has brought 30 more patients per week to the Albury Emergency Department over the past three weeks.

“On average Albury emergency sees 120 patients per day, it is a 12-bed unit so each of the emergency department beds need to turn over 10 times a day to manage the workload.”

Last November Michael Cameron experienced the Border’s bed block first hand.

The Khancoban electrician felt severe pain and called triple-000 – but little did he know hospital admission was more than five hours away. 

“I was in so much bloody pain,” he said. “At first there was no ambulance available to take me and when I did get to Albury I had to sit in the emergency department until a bed became available.”

An ambulance later took Mr Cameron, who had acute pancreatitis, to Wodonga hospital.

“When’s it going to change? When someone dies? It’s too late then,” he said. Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the government provided funding for Albury Wodonga Health for two years, including $224.94 million in the 2016-17 financial year.

“We are aware of the significant demand Albury Wodonga’s emergency department is under, and are progressing discussions with the NSW Government about what future capital works could be jointly supported,” she said. A NSW Ambulance spokesman said they worked with both hospitals to ensure a timely release of ambulances. 

He said NSW Ambulance transported 616 patients to Albury in May, with an average transfer of care time of 32 minutes and 37 patients to Wodonga in May with an average time of 22 minutes.