ACC Helicopter Delay Claim Wrong
Claims by ACC that ambulance centre staff put accident victims' lives at risk by delaying calling out helicopters are wrong and completely unsubstantiated, according to Jaimes Wood, Chief Executive of the Order of St John.
An ACC spokesperson was reported (Evening Post 8 May, The Herald 9 May) as claiming that some emergency centre dispatch staff were following wrong protocols by sending out road ambulances to emergencies instead of helicopters.
"St John has never received a formal complaint of dispatching an air ambulance too late, although we have specifically asked ACC to report any such cases to us. Indeed, the only complaints we have on record are from ACC accusing us of dispatching air ambulances too soon, or unnecessarily," said Mr Wood.
Mr Wood said that, in addition, St John's Chief Medical Advisor, Tony Smith, had specifically tasked all Auckland area emergency departments, trauma services, intensive care units and helicopter operators to report on any cases of patients who should have received primary or secondary helicopter response, but had not. There were no cases notified in the last 18 months.
He said figures obtained during a recent medical review of patients transported by helicopter in the Auckland area were consistent with over use rather than under use of helicopters.
"The review showed that 40% of patients transported by helicopter had no immediate life or limb threatening injuries and 30% had no significant time saved travelling by air," said Mr Wood.
Mr Wood noted that air ambulance calls-outs represent less than 2% of emergency call-outs nationwide, and that these had fallen in recent years following a national decrease in serious accidents. A notable example was the Wellington region where helicopter call-outs had dropped following a dramatic decrease in serious car crashes between Plimmerton and Kapiti. He endorsed the comment of Wellington Free Ambulance Chief, Paul O'Flaherty, that Wellington's WestpacTrust helicopter service - like all helicopter ambulance services around the country - would like to be used more because they have fixed costs.
Commenting on ACC's claims of "wrong protocols" being used by emergency dispatch staff, Mr Wood said the protocols used were those set by ACC.
The Order of St John is responsible for 6 of the 9 emergency ambulance call centres in New Zealand.