ONE CAR AT NIGHT: The NSW Ambulance service says it couldn't get to an injured man at Casino quickly because the town's ambulance was tied up with another case.
ONE CAR AT NIGHT: The NSW Ambulance service says it couldn't get to an injured man at Casino quickly because the town's ambulance was tied up with another case. Northern Star

Man hit by car waits 40 mins in rain for ambos

A CASINO man with severe head injuries waited almost 40 minutes for an ambulance to arrive after being hit by a car on Thursday night.

The case has highlighted what the ambulance officers' union says is a region-wide staff shortage, but which the NSW Ambulance Service put down to an unfortunate set of circumstances that prevented the two closest ambulances from coming to help.

The man, who was last night in a critical but stable condition at Brisbane's Princess Alexandra Hospital, was unconscious when police got to him near the intersection of Canterbury and Diry streets and called an ambulance shortly after he was hit at 8.15pm.

However, with the Casino ambulance tied up with another case, police were told they would have to wait with the man, who was bleeding from the head and lying by the side of the road in the rain, for 20 minutes while another ambulance drove out from Kyogle.

During the long wait police asked for a doctor to be sent from Casino Hospital, about 500 metres away, to help care for the man while they waited for an ambulance. The request was denied and an officer eventually drove to the hospital and got a nurse, who he drove back to the accident scene to stabilise the man.

At one point during the wait police explored the idea of having firefighters take the man to hospital, but with no trauma surgeon available at Casino Hospital and the man having to be taken to Lismore, the idea was dismissed. Then, as police waited, an NRMA employee arrived to pass on the news that the Kyogle ambulance had blown a tyre and would not be coming at all.

Another ambulance was called from Lismore, with police told to expect another 25-minute wait. It arrived about 10 minutes later at 8.57pm - nearly 45 minutes after the accident and nearly 40 minutes after the driver of the car involved first called the ambulance and police.

Wayne Lewry, from the Health Services Union, said there the incident pointed to a more fundamental problem in ambulance services across the region.

“We need extra staff,” he said. “When the Casino car (ambulance) is on a medical transfer, there is no one in town.

That problem was exacerbated by overcrowding at Lismore Base Hospital, where ambulances often have to wait in queues to deliver their loads of the ill and injured.

“We're trying to get extra staff in Casino, but it's not an uncommon problem in Mullumbimby, Byron, Yamba, Maclean. All the peripheral stations,” Mr Lewry said.

“Whenever they do a medical transfer, those stations are left unattended for periods of up to two hours at a time. The only way to fix it is to get more staff, which we are lobbying for at state level.”

An ambulance service spokesperson said the service tried hard to get an ambulance to the man, to the point of even trying to summon off-duty paramedics to the scene.

“In all, four units were assigned to the incident, including the vehicle that had the tyre blow out,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesman for the North Coast Area Health Service, when asked why Casino Hospital did not respond to the police officers' initial call for help, said 'normally medical staff from a hospital don't attend the scene of an accident'.

   



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