Simon Plumb is a journalist for the Herald on Sunday

Single-crew ambulance meant delay

Photo / Sarah Ivey
Photo / Sarah Ivey

A Waikato mother who dialled 111 when her 4-day-old baby couldn't breathe properly says she is lucky the incident wasn't "life or death" as concerns about single-crew ambulances increase.

Roseanne Underwood-Cadman and husband Simon Cadman's new baby, Maia, was less than 100 hours old when they called emergency services to their home in the middle of the night.

With Maia struggling to breathe properly, the couple asked for an ambulance to rush to their Ohaupo home. But when the ambulance arrived and the single crew member confirmed Maia needed hospital attention, they all had to wait for another ambulance to be ordered before there were enough staff to handle the emergency.

In the 10 minutes it took for the second emergency crew to arrive, Mrs Underwood-Cadman says the scenario could have had tragic consequences - and single-crew ambulances were not fair for patients, families or the paramedics trying to do their job.

"We were lucky it didn't turn out to be a life-and-death situation," she said.

"It was a pressurised situation to have a 4-day-old baby with a breathing problem and a paramedic saying she needed to go to hospital - but they weren't able to do that.

"Having one ambulance turn up really quickly, only to have to wait another 10 minutes for another so there were enough people to drive and take care of Maia in the back of the ambulance ... It's not fair for anyone involved.

"The paramedics are doing a good job, there's just not enough of them."

Mrs Underwood-Cadman says she was compelled to share her experience from July 2015 after the Weekend Herald revealed a letter to the Government that said St John would stop sending some ambulances within two years because it could not guarantee the safety of patients with single crews.

St John chief executive Peter Bradley says the emergency service needs an injection of millions of dollars and hundreds of new emergency staff.

In light of Mrs Underwood-Cadman's account, St John said that in life-threatening situations at least two emergency staffers would be dispatched, though high demand could mean exceptions. In Maia's case, the urgency was well understood and resources were dispatched accordingly.

- NZ Herald

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