For two-and-a-half hours an Albury resident lay helpless with a broken hip, waiting and alone, while paramedics ferried non-urgent patients to appointments.
Australian Paramedic Association’s James Kydd said responders were “disgusted” by the case and feared someone would die waiting.
Mr Kydd said paramedics were being used to transport patients to appointments, walk patients to CT scans and undertake non-emergency transports to Melbourne.
The Albury paramedic said adequate non-urgent transports were provided in cities but regional lives were being put as risk as paramedics became a “taxi service”.
He called for the NSW government to step up and provide extra non-emergency patient transport services.
“Imagine the pain and trauma of lying with a broken hip for two-and-a-half hours, no pain relief, no ability to get up,” Mr Kydd said.
“Lives are put at risk when paramedics are stuck doing routine non-emergency jobs and not being able to focus on emergency cases.”
On the same day, an elderly Albury resident waited 90 minutes for help.
“Last Wednesday, we had a crew sent to Melbourne and back to transport someone,” he said.
“It took an ambulance out of the Albury area for 12 hours and resulted in a single paramedic covering the whole Albury response area for an hour in the morning until resources could be deployed from Lockhart and Corowa.”
Mr Kydd said when a small town’s single ambulance was sent on a transport, there was no one to respond to emergencies.
“We see the human cost in this – it’s very distressing,” he said.
Murrumbidgee Local Health District patient transport manager Phil Major said across winter there had been high demand for all health resources but the region was adequately staffed with transfer services.
He said both response times and the amount of work allocated to NSW Ambulance were monitored.
The district has 12 transport vehicles, and Mr Major said these were allocated to areas, including Albury, in response to demand.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said no paramedic or union had raised the issue with him.
“Obviously the unions and I would both be concerned to make sure that patients are well looked after,” he said.
Mr Hazzard said he had asked the health district and NSW Ambulance to address the issue and advise him.