Elderly Dunedin woman waits 90 minutes for ambulance on main street

An elderly woman who tripped and fell in Green Island’s main street yesterday waited an hour and a-half for an ambulance.

A caller to the Otago Daily Times about noon said the woman, who was covered in blankets and being attended to by passersby, had been lying on the ground for an hour and an ambulance had still not arrived.

Another witness, who did not want to be identified, said the woman tripped while crossing the street.

Multiple people had called 111, and passersby were looking after the woman, who was clearly in “a lot of pain”.

“Everyone was making sure she was okay.”

People did not want to move her until the ambulance arrived.

The witness understood one of the people on the scene tending to the injured woman was a doctor, who had been going past.

An ambulance arrived about 12.30pm and left with the injured woman about 12.45pm.

St John coastal Otago territory manager Doug Third confirmed it received a call relating to the patient about 11am.

The patient’s condition was assessed by the emergency call handler as “appears serious, but not immediately life threatening”.

It was always St John’s objective to respond as soon as possible with an ambulance if required, Third said.

However, in some cases, as with this case, when all available ambulance resources were committed to other incidents, there might be a delay in responding to a non-life-threatening incident.

Any delay in ambulance response was regrettable and could cause distress, and St John acknowledged that in this case it did not meet the 111 caller’s expectations, he said.

St John took patient welfare “very seriously” and encouraged the patient to be in direct contact with it if they were not satisfied with their treatment or care.

His comments closely resembled those supplied by St John rural Otago territory manager David Milne last week after a Balclutha pensioner waited three hours for an ambulance after falling in her garden and cutting her arm.

She lay in her garden, according to St John’s advice, but after three hours and multiple more calls to St John, friends called a local police officer, who came and helped get her out. Her son then drove her to Dunedin Hospital.

All available ambulance resources were committed to other incidents at the time, and in those cases there might be a delay in responding to a non-life-threatening incident.

That had been the case that day, Milne said.

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