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Lives at risk because of single crewed ambulances

Lives at risk because of single crewed ambulances

Lives are being put at risk because so many ambulances are still going out with single crews, in clear breach of national ambulance standards, the Green Party says.

A recent case, where a relative of a sick Huntly baby had to drive the ambulance so help could be given to the child, is yet another example of how serious the situation is.

"Ambulance officers are front line health professionals, but there is no mandatory national standard governing them, or enough funding to make full-crewing possible. This is just one of several incidents in recent months where the lives of patients have been put at risk as a consequence," Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"Double crewing and ambulance standards must become mandatory, and our ambulance services given sufficient funding to ensure they can function effectively and safely with double crews.

"Imagine if other key medical professionals were governed only by voluntary guidelines - if the anaesthetist and the surgeon had no legal requirement to meet the minimum safety standards in an operating theatre. Why should our ambulance officers be forced to break their own safety standards due to lack of resources?"

"How can an ambulance officer be expected to choose between looking after a seriously injured person, and driving them to hospital? And yet, ambulance officers working alone must make this decision on a regular basis. This puts patients' lives at risk, and officers in a dangerous situation."

The New Zealand standard clearly states that "all ambulance services providing an emergency response capability shall operate with a minimum of two crew. Each crew member must hold an Ambulance New Zealand recognised qualification." This standard is still frequently being not met nine months after the Sustainable Funding Review for Ambulance Services, Ms Kedgley says.

"Until ambulance standards have the force of law, the Government won't provide adequate funding. Ambulance standards and officers agree that ambulances should be double-crewed, and yet, the money is being withheld."

Ms Kedgley said an independent operational review was also necessary to look at the structure and effectiveness of the ambulance sector. The review should investigate

* a legislative framework for the ambulance sector.

* the effectiveness of all existing operational service standards, including all management structures and communication centres.

* the effectiveness of all funding streams currently being used in the service (including the value of the voluntary component)

* the effectiveness of working arrangements with other emergency service providers.


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