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Why WA’s ambulance ramping crisis is compromising patient safety

Liam Bartlett
Article image for Why WA’s ambulance ramping crisis is compromising patient safety

The Director of Emergency Medicine at Royal Perth Hospital is concerned for the safety of patients, as ambulance ramping numbers continue to spiral out of control.

January saw patients ramped at WA hospitals for 4111 hours – a new record for the state.

Dr David McCoubrie, who is also the Vice President of the Australian Medical Association in WA, told 6PR’s Liam Bartlett “the system has fallen over”.

“It’s unsafe for patients,” he said.

“Last month the longest wait on a ramp was bout 9 hours.

“People are not being kept in the back of the ambulance during that time, they are in an ambulance trolley in a corridor in the front of a hospital.

“We are looking at a bit of a human tragedy here.”

He said hospitals are facing the worst overcrowding they have ever seen, forcing patients to wait in their “hour of need”.

“Staff feel it’s inhumane,” Dr McCoubrie said.

“Our frontline members are clear that they don’t feel they can guarantee the safety of patients attending hospital, it’s that bad.”

The AMA is asking for bigger hospital budgets to deal with the crisis.

Taxpayers are being slugged every hour an ambulance sits outside WA’s emergency departments through a fine system agreed to between the government and St John Ambulance WA.

But both parties have refused to disclose how many fines have been issued or their worth.

“Like any commercial agreement, some elements of the contract are commercially sensitive and cannot be discussed,” Health Minister Roger Cook said in a statement.

“The reason for this is St John Ambulance is not the only provider of ambulance services to the WA public.

St John Ambulance operate 556 ambulances state wide, while National Patient Transport and Wilson Medic One operate less than 10 ambulances each.

Click play to hear more on 6PR Mornings. 

(Photo: iStock by Getty Images.) 

Liam Bartlett
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