Sick left waiting

A SERIOUSLY ill elderly Churchill woman last month endured a long wait for an ambulance before her husband, who has a disability, was advised there were none available, prompting him to label the response “ridiculous”.

In a letter to The Express sent last week, 74 year-old Churchill man Jim Dempsey said he struggled, alone, to carry his wife from her bed to his vehicle before transporting her to Latrobe Regional Hospital after an ambulance operator advised him he would have to transport her himself, following a 75-minute wait for an ambulance to attend.

Mr Dempsey said before he phoned for an ambulance – “the first time in our lives we have had to call for assistance” – his wife had been ill for several days, and taken antibiotics for an infection, before her condition deteriorated.

Mr Dempsey called for assistance when he was so “concerned… as I could not get her out of bed as she was far too sick to move”.

“I honestly thought she was going to die,” he said.

After phoning Triple Zero Mr Dempsey said he explained to an operator he was unable to get his wife out of bed and “all she wanted to do was sleep”.

“I was told an ambulance was on its way and to make sure that our door was left open,” he said.

Mr Dempsey said one and a quarter hours later the operator phoned to advise no ambulances were available, “and I would have to get to the hospital myself”.

Once at LRH Mrs Dempsey was “immediately taken into a bed in the emergency ward” and Mr Dempsey said staff were “appalled at what happened with the ambulance as there was two units parked at the hospital and I had been told they had been there for some time, whatever that means”.

He said his wife, who was then diagnosed with pneumonia, had a dangerously low heartbeat and was “very weak” and dehydrated as well as having “cracking coming from her heart”.

Mrs Dempsey spent another six days at LRH and Mr Dempsey said staff, who were “excellent”, advised she would take about another month to recover.

In response, Ambulance Victoria Gippsland regional manager Mick Stephenson said “when someone calls us for help, we’d like to be able to send an ambulance immediately… sometimes this just isn’t possible and we understand that it can be concerning for those waiting”.

He confirmed at the time of Mr Dempsey’s call “all ambulances were on other jobs and the caller was asked if he was able take the patient to hospital rather than wait for one to become available”.

“Ambulances seen waiting at hospitals are generally transferring patients, which can sometimes create delays that impact on our capacity to serve the community,” he said, referring to claims ambulances had been parked at the hospital “for some time” when Mr Dempsey required assistance for his wife.