Paramedics 'late' arriving at fatal crash
CAROLINE PITT lay injured in her car after it crashed in Byron Bay for more than 21 minutes before the local ambulance crew arrived.
Mrs Pitt, the well-known and much-loved Suffolk Park businesswoman, died after her Toyota Rav4 hit a power pole just before 1am on Saturday, August 22, leaving her family and the Byron Bay township in mourning.
Despite the short distance from the accident site to the local ambulance station, The Northern Star has learned paramedics arrived after other emergency service personnel because they had been held back by other jobs.
The exact cause of Mrs Pitt's death is still not known, but the Health Services Union (HSU) is blaming the Ambulance Service's priority response system for the delay in getting to her.
The Northern Star has been told the Byron Bay paramedics - there were only two rostered on that evening - were returning from a patient transfer to Tweed Heads when they were sent to a vomiting patient in Byron Bay who had been waiting around an hour for an ambulance.
Health Services Union North Coast organiser Ken McIntosh said that, under the Ambulance Service's medical priority dispatch system, the vomiting patient's status was downgraded to avoid having to bring in an on-call paramedic from another town while the Byron crew was returning from Tweed.
“My understanding was that the vomiting patient was priority one, but they changed it to two,” he said.
“They did it in my view to avoid having to call out an on-call vehicle.
“The available vehicle was called to that, which then caused a delay in responding to the motor vehicle accident,” Mr McIntosh said.
Although there is no suggestion 56-year-old Mrs Pitt's life could have been saved, witnesses have told The Northern Star she only went into cardiac arrest as the paramedics arrived.
Her family is still struggling to come to terms with her death and waiting for answers, but was happy with the ambulance response time that night.
“No, no. They arrived really quickly. And the police too. The helicopter was there by the time they were putting her in the ambulance,” Mrs Pitt's daughter, Tanya Pearson, said.
Comment is being sought from the Ambulance Service of NSW today.