Paramedics may get to refuse non-urgent patients
Thursday, 25th July, 2013
By Darrin Manuel
Paramedics may soon be able to refuse people’s requests to be taken to hospital if their complaint is regarded as too trivial.
In an effort to keep hospital beds free, NSW Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat has recommended that ambulance crews be given discretion over whether non-urgent patients should be transported to hospital.
Mr Achterstraat yesterday released a state-wide report that showed that people in NSW were calling ambulances to deal with bed bugs, bee stings and, in one case, to have a light bulb replaced.
Current ambulance protocols require paramedics to take patients to hospital if they insist, even if their clinical assessment indicates that hospital treatment is unnecessary.
Mr Achterstraat said this needs to change.
“Paramedics should also be allowed to say ‘no’, that is, refuse to transport patients whose clinical assessment indicates that hospital treatment is not warranted,” he said.
“Calling triple-zero to get a script renewed or because you want your blood pressure checked is not appropriate.”
The report also showed NSW ambulance crews now wait on average nearly 32 minutes at a hospital before handing over a patient - up from about 24 minutes seven years ago.
Only 65 per cent of ambulance crews handed over patients within 30 minutes of arriving, well below NSW Health’s target of 90 per cent.
In 2011-12 nearly one in ten ambulances, or around 50,000 patients, waited longer than an hour to be moved from an ambulance stretcher into the care of the emergency department.
Broken Hill fared better than most centres in the report with 86.4 per cent of ambulance patients offloaded in 30 minutes, just short of NSW Health’s target.
Mr Achterstraat said many hospitals had improved their performance since the report was compiled, including Broken Hill’s.
He called on NSW communities and health services to work together to ensure that paramedics were out on the road, rather than waiting at hospitals or attending needless calls.
“Paramedics should spend as little time as possible at emergency departments so they can respond to other triple-zero calls in the community.”