Seriously ill people have almost lost their lives waiting for an ambulance — and this was before the coronavirus pandemic hit NSW.
Seriously ill people have almost lost their lives waiting for an ambulance — and this was before the coronavirus pandemic hit NSW.

Ambo wait times on the rise before COVID-19 outbreak

One in 10 people in Sydney with an urgent medical crisis are waiting longer than an hour for an ambulance to arrive - and that's before the coronavirus pandemic hits.

An investigation by The Daily Telegraph can reveal several seriously ill people have almost lost their lives waiting for an ambulance.

In one case, a patient at Berowra Heights suffering a serious stroke waited two hours before an ambulance took him to hospital.

In another, journalist Sharri Markson lost 40 per cent of her blood in an internal bleed after waiting two hours.

The situation is more dire in some areas of Sydney.

Wait times for "urgent" cases have hit an average of 1 hour and 24 minutes in suburbs like Baulkham Hills.

About 11 per cent of patients waiting for a P2 urgent ambulance call now wait over an hour, according to the NSW Bureau of Health Information.

More than one in four people who have stopped breathing, are unconscious or are suffering heart attacks now wait more than the benchmark 10 minutes for help, jeopardising their chance of survival.

Seriously ill people are waiting up to an hour for an ambulance to arrive. Picture: AAP
Seriously ill people are waiting up to an hour for an ambulance to arrive. Picture: AAP

Overstretched paramedics say this is the critical situation before the coronavirus pandemic reaches its peak.

"The issue of under resourcing is chronic and impacts patient outcomes due to delayed treatment," Australian Paramedics Association NSW President Chris Kastelan said.

"Paramedics are extremely concerned about the workload COVID-19 is causing.

"There are simply not enough cars on the road to cover the workload."

Daily Telegraph journalist Sharri Markson waited two hours for an ambulance. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Daily Telegraph journalist Sharri Markson waited two hours for an ambulance. Picture: Justin Lloyd

The NSW Government and the Bureau of Health Information refuses to provide information about the longer wait times seriously ill patients are enduring. But even they cannot hide how much longer it is taking for an ambulance to arrive.

New figures released this week by the NSW Bureau of Health Information reveal spikes in demand for ambulances and significant blowouts in the times it takes crews to reach our most sick.

About 43 per cent of patients with conditions ranging from serious haemorrhaging or breathing problems are waiting longer than 15 minutes.

"Accessing an ambulance shouldn't be on the basis of where you live but unfortunately the NSW Government has refused to provide the paramedics and ambulances needed, especially in regional NSW," Opposition health spokesman Ryan Park said.

Health Services Union boss Gerard Hayes said the closure of many suburban stations over the past few years to create "super stations" has added to response times because of the increased traffic crews have to battle.

The State Government has committed to bringing in 700 new paramedics, but according to Mr Kastelan, they are simply filling gaps in rosters.

A NSW Ambulance spokeswoman apologised "for any distress experienced by the patient (Ms Markson)" and claimed the call was properly classified.

Originally published as Ambo wait times on the rise before COVID-19 outbreak


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