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Ambulance billboards reflect rising concern

18 February 2007

Horowhenua ambulance billboards reflect rising concern

The erection of 20 signs warning those driving through Horowhenua that they are passing through an under-crewed ambulance zone is a sign of the rising level of concern over this unsafe practice, the Green Party says.

Around 70 percent of emergency callouts in the Horowhenua District are being responded to by single-crewed ambulances, with just one person aboard responsible for both driving and treating the patient.

"This is a dangerous practice which puts the lives of both patients and ambulance officers at risk,' Green Health Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

"You cannot drive and administer treatment to a patient at the same time. Also many aspects of ambulance officers' job cannot be handled alone, such as lifting an immobile patient onto a stretcher and into an ambulance.

"The National Ambulance Standard stipulates that ambulances should have two qualified people when responding to emergencies. However, this standard is constantly being breached by St Johns.

"Disturbingly it seems the quality of care New Zealanders can expect when they make an emergency call depends on where they live."

According to St Johns' own figures about 50,000 emergency calls were attended by single-crewed ambulances last year. Furthermore, the Government has absolutely no idea how many people are dying or suffering needless harm as a result of this practice as they only measure response times and have no record of whether an ambulance arrived single-crewed or not and could treat or transport patients properly.

"The people of Horowhenua and the rest of New Zealand have the right to know that when they pick up the phone in an emergency and call for help, it will be there," Ms Kedgley says.

The signs, which read, 'Beware you are now entering a single crewed ambulance area' are a fitting warning.


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