News

Ipswich ambo speaks out on ramping, risks his job

RECURRING ISSUE: Ambulances ramping at Ipswich Hospital back in 2011.
RECURRING ISSUE: Ambulances ramping at Ipswich Hospital back in 2011. Claudia Baxter

LIVES are being put at risk as paramedics stand waiting in hospital hallways instead of responding to the public's calls for help.  

Ambulance ramping at Ipswich Hospital has become noticeably worse in the past year.  

Now paramedics are breaking their silence to warn the community - there could be dire consequences.  

Ipswich Hospital hasn't denied ramping is a major problem, but pointed out the issue is affecting most major Queensland hospitals, most recently highlighted by unions in Cairns and Logan.   

The State Government says an increased demand in ambulance services and emergency departments across the state is putting pressure on services.   

But fear and frustration is mounting among local ambulance officers who are calling on the government to take action.  

In the past week, on any given day, there have been about five ambulances parked in the Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department parking bay.  

The hospital says that could be related to flu season, which has been particularly severe this season.

According to ambulance officers, spending up to five hours waiting for a patient to be admitted to the hospital isn't unusual.

Ipswich Hospital emergency department drop-off and ambulance bay, September 2016.
Ipswich Hospital emergency department drop-off and ambulance bay, September 2016. David Nielsen

They say the ramping issue is a combination of the lack of hospital staff, not enough beds and the public's abuse of both the ambulance service and the public emergency department.

When ambulances are ramped they can't respond to new calls and regional stations, such as in Springfield and Redbank, are being forced to pick up the slack leaving those communities without nearby services.

An Ipswich ambulance officer with more than 20 years' experience has risked his job to explain why ambulance ramping could cost someone their life.

He says if his name was to be printed, he would surely be fired.

"It's almost a daily issue," the paramedic said.

"Being ramped for two or three hours is not uncommon and I have personally been ramped for five hours before.

"You often hear the radio calling for anyone that can respond to a Code One and they repeat the call in desperation because they've got no units available.

"It's frustrating. I think every paramedic goes through the same thing; if that was our family member that had a car accident, or a heart attack, and they die because an ambulance can't get there....

"These are people we should be looking after and we can't get there to do that job."

Between January and June last year ambulance officers across Queensland spent 751 days 'ramped' at hospital emergency departments for longer than 30 minutes.

That's an improvement on the same figures from 2010-2011 when paramedics spent 1315 days standing around waiting.

But in 2013, under the LNP government, that figure dropped down to 318 days.

Shadow Health Minister John-Paul Langbroek puts that down to the introduction of the Metropolitan Emergency Department Access Initiative.

The initiative followed an expert report on ambulance ramping, pointing it out as a major problem, and stopped ambulances 'bypassing' busy hospitals.

Shadow Health Minister, the LNP's John-Paul Langbroek
Shadow Health Minister, the LNP's John-Paul Langbroek Allan Reinikka

The reform focused on improving communication and co-ordination between Queensland Health and Queensland Ambulance Service within emergency departments, a process deemed inconsistent across hospitals at the time.

In August last year the State Government re-instated a directive ordering hospitals to follow that initiative, which was revoked by the LNP once the figures showed ramping was resolving and hospitals were working more efficiently.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Cameron Dick said the biggest contributor to ramping was a 5 per cent increase in calls to Queensland Ambulance.

In Ipswich, presentations to the Emergency Department this year have jumped 5.6% from last year.

The LNP is blaming the State Government for a resurgence in ramping, while the State Government is pointing the finger at the LNP for removing the requirements set out in the Metropolitan Emergency Department Access Initiative in the first place.

But paramedics say the easiest solution would be to assign an emergency triage nurse to exclusively assess patients arriving by ambulance, a system already in place at some hospitals in south-east Queensland.

That option is being explored for Ipswich Hospital, however, funding is an issue.

When asked if staffing issues in the Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department were causing ambulance ramping, West Moreton Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive Sue McKee skirted around the question.

Ms McKee said staffing levels were regularly reviewed, but wouldn't say how many staff work in the department in total.

"It's not uncommon for some people in the community to misuse the QAS and tie up valuable resources in emergency departments when they could have seen a GP or called the 13HEALTH for medical advice," Ms McKee said.

Topics:  health, ipswich, ipswich hospital, paramedics



Emotional farewell for AWLQ volunteers and staff

AWLQ CEO Denise Bradley farewells a long-serving volunteer at the West Ipswich facility on Friday.

The AWLQ has left the building. So what's next?

Federal Minister won't support JBS workers

Federal Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash

Federal Minister leaves JBS questions unanswered

Check out the Top of Town's newest store

TOP CHOICE: Julie Clark, owner of a new shop at the Top of Town, Baby Body Abode, with her dog Beau who greets the customers at the door.

Julie Clark is head over heels with Ipswich

Local Partners

Jay Z signs two-year movie and TV deal

Rapper Jay Z

Rapper Jay Z has signed a television and movie deal

Nowhere to Hyde: Matt Nable is Australia's man in demand

Matt Nable stars as Detective Gary Hyde in the TV series Hyde & Seek.

NABLE returns to the small screen amidst busy film work.

Things to do around Ipswich this weekend

The Ipswich Orchid Society Garden Spectacular is this weekend.

Things to do around Ipswich

Marvel's Luke Cage S1E7: Manifest review

Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage. Supplied by Netflix.

*WARNING: spoilers if you haven't seen Marvel's Luke Cage*

Marvel's Luke Cage S1E6: Suckas Need Bodyguards review

Rosario Dawson and Mike Colter in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage. Supplied by Netflix.

*WARNING: spoilers if you haven't seen Marvel's Luke Cage*

Marvel's Luke Cage S1E5: Just To Get A Rep review

Mahershala Ali, centre, in a scene from the TV series Marvel's Luke Cage. Supplied by Netflix.

*WARNING: spoilers if you haven't seen Marvel's Luke Cage*

Beach-side real estate starts at $85k on Fraser Coast

HERVEY BAY REAL ESTATE: You can buy this townhouse in Scarness for under $300k.

Live your beach-living dream locally.

$40million hotel, shops development project for Mackay

Mt Pleasant hotel and retirement accommodation, proposed at 194-202 Malcomson St.

$40m development to take Mackay to 'the next level'

Housing report points to a lift in local market

AFFORDABLE HOMES: First home buyers have the opportunity to purchase modern new homes in the Ipswich region for under $400,000.

Region shaping up as the "final frontier” for affordable housing

Five ways to slash household bills and save the environment

THINK GREEN: Considering the environment when building or buying your next home can save you big dollars. The Village Building Company, who is responsible for Woodlinks Village at Collingwood Park, builds homes with this front of mind.

THERE is nothing as sweet as slashing dollars from your bills.

Investors out-bid first-home buyers in booming market

Housing generic.

Ipswich's housing market is putting more cash into sellers’ pockets