South Australias Ambulance Ramping Crisis Research Paper Example


This past April, a beloved 80-year-old-man tragically passed away after he suffered multiple cardiac arrests while ramped in an ambulance. Experiencing crushing pain radiating through his chest and struggling to breathe with fluid filling the air sacks in his lungs, he reached for his phone to call for help. Significantly later, blue and red flashing lights could be seen in the distance of his suburban home. After waving goodbye to his wife, he was taken into the back of an ambulance where he would then remain for the next agonising four hours. Once he finally emerged from the Flinders’ Medical Centre parking bay … it was too late. 

Sadly, every single day across South Australia there are hundreds of cases like this where patients are being denied access to the services they need, right at the door of the hospital. So close to care, yet so far away. Due to emergency departments being overrun, there are simply not enough beds, staff and other essential resources for patients. Without further adequate funding and support from government agencies, South Australia’s broken hospital system will only continue to worsen, more lives will be lost and families torn apart. 

On the 3rd of May, the CEO and Secretary of the SA branch of the Australian Midwifery and Nursing Federation, Elizabeth Debars voiced that “an unprecedented 139 people [were] waiting for a bed in emergency departments across the city …,” with 64 people waiting for a bed at the Royal Adelaide Hospital alone and 16 of these for more than 24 hours. 

The key problem stems from a shortage of in-patient beds, staff and other facilities due to a growing, ageing population and subsequent unpreventable 3 percent per annum increase in demand for hospital care. When an ambulance is ramped it not only severely affects the patient who is left waiting in the ambulance for hours but also affects patients on the other end in time-sensitive and life-threatening situations waiting for an ambulance. 

In April, an ambulance was rung at 9:35 am after a young boy suffered a three-to-four-minute seizure at school. The ambulance did not arrive until 12.06 pm

In the same month, a 32-year-old aspiring cancer researcher was found lying dead on her bathroom floor, with her dinner still in the microwave, 6 hours after she called 000 because she was feeling dizzy. 

And just this week (13/7/2021) a 6-month-old baby vomiting and struggling to breathe was forced to wait 45 minutes for an ambulance. As a priority 2 case, the baby should have been seen within 8-16 minutes.

This crisis has got so bad that some patients have gone as far as catching taxis to the hospital during medical emergencies, and others have opted not to call for help over fear they would be ramped.

Recently, the SA Ambulance Service revealed that over the past 12 months, patients and ambulance crews spent a total of 2,281 hours ramped in parking bays. This equates to over 3 months’ worth of critical time that was lost at the expense of lives. 

Heartbreakingly, while ramped for the second time in a month when receiving care for breathing difficulties, a 93-year-old woman expressed that she’d had enough and just wanted to die. 

Additionally, last month, a 21-year-old young mum’s life was hanging on the balance when she lost a litre of blood waiting in the back of an ambulance for 6 hours after suffering internal bleeding from an ectopic pregnancy.

This is simply not good enough. Imagine if this was you; your sister, your brother, your mother, your father, your grandparent, … a friend, or someone else close to you. How would you feel?

Hardworking paramedics cannot do their job and keep communities safe unless the government urgently provides more funding and support. Over the next four years, the Marshall Liberal government has promised $45.1 million towards the SA Ambulance Service, 140 beds and 74 more emergency operational staff. While this is a step in the right direction, more funding is needed right now. The South Australian Ambulance has declared several internal disasters over the past few weeks due to a lack of capacity at major hospitals such as the Royal Adelaide Hospital, and Flinders Medical Centre. 

When someone is in their most vulnerable state and call emergency services they expect help to be on the way, but whether it's waiting for an ambulance or in one, people aren’t receiving the care they need. At the end of the day, if we don’t have our health, what do we have? The time for action is now.

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