Ambulance logjam for ER beds

MOST of the region’s ambulances were effectively taken off the road after a “bed-block” at Lismore Base Hospital tied up seven units for more than two hours on Wednesday afternoon.

Paramedics were forced to wait in the emergency department’s drop-off bay and on the street, monitoring their patients, while hospital staff and clinicians struggled to work through the backlog.

A spokesperson for the NSW Ambulance Service declined to comment yesterday saying it was a Lismore Base Hospital issue, but added that the service had been able to meet the afternoon’s demand.

Enough of the backlog was cleared in time for several late afternoon emergencies, but it is understood no double-crew ambulances were available between Byron Bay, Evans Head and Urbenville for more than two hours on Wednesday afternoon.

The queue included three units from Lismore, two from Ballina, one from Urbenville and one from Casino, which represented nearly all available resources from those areas.

NSW Nurses Association north coast delegate, Gil Wilson, said it was becoming a regular problem and it was only a matter of time before a major emergency event pushed resources past the limit.

“It’s a huge workload issue for nurses and huge patient safety issue and, more than that, it’s a community issue because if you’ve got seven ambulances sitting at Lismore Base emergency department, they’re not out in the community,” he said.

“Ambulances should be able to come in, offload, and get back out there straight away to serve the people that they are supposed to.”

Yesterday in front of 400 NSW Nurses Association delegates at their annual conference in Sydney, Mr Wilson secured the commitment of NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner to visit Lismore next month.

“She has agreed to come and see the ridiculous state of the emergency department (among other issues),” he said.