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The Standard

Come in Houston…

Written By: - Date published: 5:56 pm, July 11th, 2013 - 15 comments
Categories: health, quality of life, Social issues - Tags: ,

Today, a passenger on the bus I was travelling on, had a fit or seizure of some description. Luckily for them, they slumped sideways into the recovery position and the bus was stationery, having just pulled into a bus stop.

The driver and another passenger ‘oversaw’ the person for the duration of their seizure. So far so good. The person then responded to the driver that they had never had such an episode before. And so, the driver, quite reasonably and presumably acting on the precautionary principle, phoned emergency services.

Obviously, the call centre wasn’t in Dunedin as the driver had to reiterate he was in Albany Street, describe where Albany Street was and point out that ‘Albany’ began with an ‘a’ and not an ‘e’. Had the street been by any other name, then that small breakdown in communication wouldn’t even have been noticed. But questioning the whereabouts of Albany Street? I mean, for the benefit of anyone unfamiliar with Dunedin – anyone – everyone in Dunedin knows where Albany Street is due to the fact it runs down by the side of the University.

Anyway, the call proceeded on the basis of the driver answering direct questions or running rudimentary first aid diagnoses under instruction from the person on the other end of the phone.

Then he was told an ambulance would be on its way. So we waited.

And ten minutes became fifteen minutes. And fifteen minutes became over twenty minutes. And still there was no sign of an ambulance. Again, for those unfamiliar with Dunedin, Albany Street is one block away from the hospital…a two to three minute walk. The driver re-dialled emergency services and again was told to wait and assured that an ambulance would be there.

And more than forty minutes ticked by.

During that period, the person who had ‘fitted’ left the bus and began to walk along the road. I caught them up and suggested they come back to the bus as we were awaiting an ambulance. They hadn’t realised…had forgotten…that was why the bus was just sitting there.

So they, perfectly functional but discombobulated, came back to the bus. I asked where they had intended to go when they had left the bus and was told they were heading towards the hospital, though they had no idea where they were. And as minutes ticked by they became more inclined to be upset – tears of embarrassment, guilt, confusion or whatever bubbling just beneath the surface in spite of reassurances from the other passengers that any delay to our journey was inconsequential.

I don’t know what happened in the end as another bus came to ferry the rest of us passengers home after forty minutes or so.

But what the fuck is it that emergency services say they are sending an ambulance from no more than three or four hundred meters away and more than forty minutes pass and no assistance has arrived?

Is this common place? And if it is, is it acceptable? The driver, myself and the other passengers have been left gobsmacked.

I mean, if emergency services were reasonably confident that no emergency existed, then why did they instruct the driver to wait? Why, if there was deemed to be no emergency, weren’t instructions issued to simply bring the person (either by bus or on foot or ‘later’)  to the hospital for a check-up/over? Anyone out there have any experience/knowledge that could provide answers or a measure of understanding? Or is it all as a consequence of the information contained in this article from the turn of the year?

15 comments on “Come in Houston…”

  1. Tim 1

    http://thestandard.org.nz/no-one-was-there-to-meet-them-no-one-went-to-help-them/

    Comments 1 & 1.1

    Same shit – different stink!
    This risk managers and bean counters have been hard at work

  2. wolf 2

    Would like to hear st johns / dispatchers side of the story before passing judgement

    • Draco T Bastard 2.1

      No, after better than an hour, I’d say that their side no longer counts except as an example of what we need to fix.

  3. weka 3

    At a guess I would say they prioritised the available ambulances based on what was said in the phone call. I’ve been in that situation where the medical person on the other end of the phone asked quite specific questions and based on the answers made a decision about whether to use the ambulance or whether we should drive the injured person in. The main issue is if there is a life threatening emergency and the one available ambulance is tied up with a non-acute case.

    I’ve also been in the situation where I was waiting for an ambulance that never arrived (I eventually rang friends to pick me up and take me to A and E). The thing about that, and your situation today, is that communication could have been way better. Yes we will send an ambulance but it’s likely to be 30-40 mintues time. We’ve assessed the situation as not acute (or whatever), so please wait etc.

    btw, The 111 call centres were centralised in the 90s (eg all the South Island ones went to Chch). Prior to that time a call to 111 would go to a local exchange, staffed by people who knew the area. I don’t know what level of training staff were given but the general feeling was that if you lived in Dunedin and called 111 and said Albany St, then they would know where you meant. At the time of the change people said it would cost lives and there have been a few high profile cases where that looks to be the case.

  4. McFlock 4

    Intense.
    Needless to say, if a replacement bus can arrive before an ambulance, someone fucked up somewhere. Seizures w/o previous history can be associated with very big issues.

    In the mid-noughts I had to call for the emergency services pretty regularly to the same area (including incidents where my response to the “fire/police/ambulance” question was “all of them”), and I never had a wait that long – and usually had good feedback on how far away folk were.

    Basically, it sounds like a resource issue – the depot is only 5 blocks from the hospital, so obviously all the vehicles with crews were out and about. Cruely ironic that the ODT had an article this very day headlined “No lack of city St John volunteers”.

    So barring a fuckup at the comms centre, my guess is that all the trucks were doing patient transport or at other incidents, with none spare to cover central Dunedin. this article reckons their central dunedin response time in 2/3 of incidents is 12 minutes, so your situation is a definite long tail and deserves investigation. A letter or email to St John might give some perspective.

  5. Pasupial 5

    I’m sure that everyone has experienced the feeling that the call centre on the other end of the phone doesn’t give a damn whether you live or die. It is a bit on the nose when the call is for an ambulance though!

  6. Rogue Trooper 6

    kinda like waiting on the runway, alongside a broken, burning 777…
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=10897191

  7. Noko 7

    Totally good post, but not quite factually right. The hospital is 400m from Albany St, but St John ambulance station is on lower York Place, another 800m from the hospital.
    Super chump.

    • McFlock 7.1

      oh, well, at those distances they should have used the helicopter /sarc

    • Colonial Viper 7.2

      And where are the spare buses kept?

      • McFlock 7.2.1

        Depends on the company, but two or three times the distance to the ambulance depot.
        Although it was probably just the next one on the schedule.

  8. My name is Rick Jones, and I am the Southern Communications Centre Manager for St John.
    We’d like to respond to the weblog post made last week about an incident in Dunedin.
    We certainly appreciate that situations like these can be very distressing for the people involved, especially for bystanders.
    In this specific incident, through our call taking process, we were able to ascertain that the patient was not in a life-threatening condition.
    We spoke to the driver three times during this situation and advised them that because of workload (all available emergency Ambulances were at other incidents) we would be with the patient as soon as possible. The driver also updated us regularly on the condition of the patient, which had not changed.
    In the event, the patient’s family arrived and took the patient to hospital.
    With regards to the comments around locating the incident, the Southern Communications Centre is based in Christchurch and handles over 700 calls a day (both emergency and non-emergency) for the entire South Island.
    If people have further concerns or questions they are welcome to contact me directly at rick.jones@stjohn.org.nz.
    Rick Jones, Southern Communications Centre Manager, St John

    • r0b 8.1

      Thanks for taking the time to describe the incident form your point of view.

    • McFlock 8.2

      Thanks for that information, Rick.

      I suppose that the issue for me is the amount of time that it took for the person to actually reach medical help (based purely on a phone diagnosis) when their incident happened in the middle of town (conflict of interest disclaimer – I’m usually in that part of town, and have reached the age where physical decrepitude seems to be fast approaching. You’re getting old when you feel that it might be a wise personal healthcare move to memorise the defibrillator machine locator map :) ).

      Surely there’s a better way of advising callers as to the expected arrival time of an ambulance beyond “as soon as possible” – I get annoyed enough when the taxi company says that and they’re forty minutes or more away, let alone an ambulance. Is there any policy on advising when to do self transport to hospital, given that the distance was so small in this case?

    • Bill 8.3

      Thr three times the driver spoke to you were the two occasions mentioned in the original post and on a third occasion (according to the conversation I had with the driver today) about 15 minutes after the rest of us passengers had been ferried away and after family members had arrived and taken the person to the hospital themselves.

      Can’t see where ‘regular updates on the condition of the patient’ come into it.

      Regardless, it seems that the question of the original post has been answered. A second rate emergency response is the norm for NZ. Good to know.

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  • Treasury and IRD on a capital gains tax
    Both the Treasury and IRD have been advising the National Government on the benefits of a capital gains tax. Documents released to the Green Party under an Official Information Act request show that John Key has been selective with the… ...
    GreensBy Russel Norman MP
    4 days ago
  • Charity legislation needs review
    It is unacceptable that the big corporate based charities claim  millions in annual income tax exemptions, while small community based and operated non-profit organisations  struggle to gain official charity status, Labour’s acting spokesperson for the Voluntary and Community Sector Louisa… ...
    5 days ago
  • John’s panic-Key response to housing crisis
    John Key needs to tell New Zealanders what caused his sudden change of heart that led to the Government’s scrambled and last-minute housing measures, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “The Prime Minister’s sudden rush of blood to his head followed… ...
    5 days ago
  • Keep our Assets Christchurch Campaign: An update
    I recently presented my submission to keep Christchurch Council assets at the Christchurch City Council’s public hearings on its 10 year plan on 13 May. The hearings are live-streamed and recorded so you can watch them on www.ccc.govt.nz. The Council’s… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    5 days ago
  • John Key finally admits there’s a housing crisis
    John Key’s weak measures to rein in the astronomical profits property speculators are making are an admission – finally – that there is a housing crisis, Labour Leader Andrew Little says. “But yet again National is tinkering with the housing… ...
    5 days ago
  • Government stifles voices in CYFs review
    The Government’s exclusion of the Māori Women’s Welfare League in a panel on the future of CYFs is a cynical ploy to stifle views, says Labour’s Māori Development Spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta. “It's unbelievable that a significant review on the future… ...
    1 week ago
  • Speech to the Otago Chamber of Commerce
    Thank you very much for the opportunity to be here today. It’s a pleasure as always to be back in the town that raised me. Growing up in St Kilda meant that there was one thing that was a big… ...
    1 week ago
  • Key can’t just be Prime Minister for Parnell
    John Key must show New Zealanders in next week’s Budget that he is more than the Prime Minister for Parnell, and is also the Prime Minister for Pine Hill, Putararu and Palmerston North, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. In… ...
    1 week ago
  • Stop the conversions
    This week, some Waikato locals took me and intrepid photographer Amanda Rogers on a tour of some  lakes and waterways in their region, and up to the massive dairy conversions in the upper catchment of the Waikato River. It… ...
    GreensBy Catherine Delahunty MP
    1 week ago
  • More regional jobs go in Corrections reshape
    News that 194 Corrections staff are to lose their jobs will have ramifications not only for them and their families but for the wider community, Labour’s Corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis says. Prison units at Waikeria, Tongariro and Rimutaka face closure… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government’s climate meetings off to a bumpy start
    On Wednesday, I attended a hui and an evening meeting that the Government had organised in Nelson as part of its climate change consultation tour, to support the Nelson community telling the Government to take meaningful action on climate change.… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    1 week ago
  • Taxpayers the only ones left feeling blue
    Ministry of Social Development bosses could have saved themselves thousands of dollars in consultants’ fees by providing staff with rose-tinted spectacles, Labour’s State Services spokesperson Kris Faafoi says. A report out today reveals the Ministry is spending over half a… ...
    1 week ago
  • Why are the regions still facing restrictions?
    Labour's Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford is questioning why the regions should continue to be saddled with LVR lending restrictions announced by the Reserve Bank today. “Labour has been calling for the regions to be exempted from LVRs for the best… ...
    1 week ago
  • The high costs of weak environmental regulation
    Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere is described on the Department of Conservation website as “Canterbury’s largest and New Zealand’s fifth largest [lake], and an internationally important wildlife area.” But the lake is also polluted by nutrients leaching from farms in the catchment.… ...
    GreensBy Eugenie Sage MP
    1 week ago
  • Submissions to Wellington City Council on their Gambling Venues Policy
    Every three years Councils across the country are required to check that their gambling venue policies are still fit for purpose and they can choose to consult on their policy if they are thinking of making changes. Councils don’t have… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Reserve Bank action shows Govt out of touch and out of ideas
    The Reserve Bank’s unprecedented measures today show it understands the serious risks of the overheating housing market – in complete contrast to John Key’s refusal to acknowledge the crisis, Labour’s Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson says. “The Bank is right to… ...
    1 week ago
  • Send us your snaps: 25 Years of the Green Party
    This year we've hit a milestone. We're turning 25.To help celebrate a quarter of a century, please send us your photos from the last 25 years of the Green Party Aotearoa New Zealand! Note: Photos must be jpg, gif or… ...
    1 week ago
  • 25 Years of the Green Party
    This year the Green Party sends 25. To help us celebrate a quarter of a century please send us you photos of 25 years of the Green Party!Photos must be jpg,gif or png and smaller than 2MB. If you are… ...
    1 week ago
  • Bay growth plan too little too late
    Today’s Bay of Plenty growth study from MBIE is another example of Government spin - lots of talk but little action, says Labour’s Regional Development spokesperson David Cunliffe.  “This is a region that desperately needs to develop the downstream processing… ...
    1 week ago
  • Government bows to ACC pressure
     The Government has finally buckled to pressure from Labour and the New Zealand public in making a half billion dollar cut to ACC levies, but the full benefits are two years away,” says Opposition Leader Andrew Little.  “$500 million over… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • False figures cloud Auckland transport facts
    The Prime Minister should apologise and issue a correction after both he and Transport Minister Simon Bridges have been caught out misrepresenting facts on Auckland’s transport spending, Labour’s Housing spokesperson Phil Twyford says. "Both John Key and Simon Bridges have… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt books confirm National can’t post surplus
    The last publication of the Government’s books before the budget shows National will break its promise of seven years and two election campaigns and fail to get the books in order, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. “The Government is… ...
    2 weeks ago
  • US state joins NZ with GE food labelling
    New Zealand has a similar law making the labelling of many GE foods compulsory, but the Government seems to let it slide.  Because the government has not monitored or enforced our GE food labelling laws since 2003, it seems the… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour Pays Tribute to Erima Henare
    “E ua e te ua tata rahi ana, Ko te hua i te kamo taheke i runga raa. No reira e te rangatira Erima takoto mai I roto I te ringa o Ihowa o nga Mano e moe e.” ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour Pays Tribute to Erima Henare
    “E ua e te ua tata rahi ana, Ko te hua i te kamo taheke i runga raa. No reira e te rangatira Erima takoto mai I roto I te ringa o Ihowa o nga Mano e moe e.” ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour Pays Tribute to Erima Henare
    “E ua e te ua tata rahi ana, Ko te hua i te kamo taheke i runga raa. No reira e te rangatira Erima takoto mai I roto I te ringa o Ihowa o nga Mano e moe e.” ...
    2 weeks ago

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