Ambulance waiting times could lead to medical negligence claims

Date: Dec 09, 2014

Medical negligence claims in NSW could spike if ambulance delays continue to create problems in the state.

Two men have lost their lives this month after paramedics took longer than expected to reach the scene of emergencies, with officials claiming there is a lack of resources to meet current service demands.

A 54-year-old man died when an ambulance took 32 minutes to reach him after he choked on a piece of steak. His 90-year-old mother provided CPR while waiting for paramedics to arrive, the Daily Telegraph reports.

In a separate incident, a man suffering chest pains was forced to wait almost half an hour for help, by which time the Minto Heights resident had died.

Wayne Flint, president of the Australian Paramedics Association, said six crews had been tied up outside emergency departments at Campbelltown and Liverpool hospitals. He described the situation as "not uncommon".

Health Services Union NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes stated there are a number of problems with the current system that prevent adequate health care.

"Seven years ago we were under-resourced by 250 paramedics, and things have only got worse since then," he explained.

"This is compounded by trolley block, where the lack of resources at emergency wards means crews are forced to wait to hand over patients."

Concern over treatment times

Ambulance delays are just part of the problem, new figures from the Bureau of Health Information (BHI) suggest.

Patients in some Western Sydney hospitals may also find the amount of time it takes to get treated becoming an issue. Statistics revealed fewer than half of individuals at the worst-performing facilities receive help within four hours.

Just 45 per cent of Westmead patients were treated within this time, while 47 per cent of people visiting Blacktown Hospital said the same. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the figure was below 60 per cent for Campbelltown, Nepean and Mt Druitt hospitals.

However, the data is an improvement on previous results, with many emergency departments maintaining or enhancing their performance.

Dr Jean-Frederic Levesque, BHI chief executive, said more people were admitted to hospital between July and September 2014 than the same period last year.

"In the emergency department, the times that patients waited to begin treatment have generally improved, and the total time spend in the emergency department also decreased compared to one year ago," he added.

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