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Bleeding 90-year-old waits for ambulance

Sep 27th, 2012 | By | Category: Front Page Layout, Latest News, News

A 90-year-old woman sat pale and bleeding at a Wellington café for an hour waiting for an ambulance to arrive.

The elderly woman asked staff at Maranui café in Lyall Bay to ring an ambulance after she noticed she was bleeding quite heavily.

Café owner Matt Wilson rang 111. The call centre spoke with the woman, graded her as non-urgent, and said they would get an ambulance to her.

Maranui staff member Grace Uivel said she sat with the woman and tried to keep her calm.

“The ambulance rang [20 minutes later] to say there was a delay and they wouldn’t be able to come. I think that set her into a bit of a state,” she says.

Ms Uivel rang the call centre after another five minutes to ask if she should bring the woman in her car because she was getting worse.

They told her “it’s up to you”.

“It wasn’t up to me,” says Ms Uivel, who did not know whether it was safe to move the woman.

Ms Uivel explained to the woman the ambulance was going to take a while, but they were still coming.

“She started to lose consciousness after that. She was really not well.”

Mr Wilson rang the ambulance a final time and they re-graded the woman to a code red – immediately life-threatening.

The ambulance arrived 13 minutes later – 54 minutes after the initial call.

Ms Uivel says she understands Wellington Free Ambulance is a charity and was doing its best, but she was angry with the call centre.

The service lacked emotional support: “The one other time I have had to call an ambulance for me, they talked me through it and it was almost as good as a paramedic.”

Wellington Free Ambulance spokesman David Baker says they recently changed how they prioritise 111 calls, from a three-point number scale to a five-point colour-coded one.

Calls are now based on a colour-system from purple (immediately life-threatening), to red (immediately life-threatening or time-critical), to orange (urgent/potentially serious), green (non-urgent) and grey (not serious or life-threatening).

It ensures the most urgent calls are responded to most urgently.

“They [call centre] responded correctly based on information given to them,” says Mr Baker.  Judged by that information, it did not seem serious.

“It then became a little bit worse and as a result we re-coded it, based on the international system.”

The woman, who did not wish to speak about her ordeal, was earlier this week in a stable condition at Wellington Hospital.

Wellington Free Ambulance, the only free ambulance service in New Zealand, gets funding from ACC, the Ministry of Health and contracts with the Capital and Coast District Health Board.

The rest they get through fundraising, such as the street appeal they had this month.

The New Zealand Ambulance Association says they need more funding to ensure a better service.

“Underfunding results in over-stretched ambulance services,” says their website.

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