Local lives are being put at risk by “red tape” forcing paramedics to bypass Nepean Hospital in critical emergencies, according to the Australian Paramedics Association.
As revealed by Fairfax Media in August, NSW Health has determined that when transporting major trauma cases in the local area, ambulances should bypass Nepean Hospital and instead take patients to Westmead, Westmead Children’s and Liverpool Hospitals.
“If someone is seriously injured in a car accident on the Great Western Highway, Kingswood, the paramedics are directed to transport patients to Westmead Hospital 30km away and not Nepean Hospital which is within 800 metres,” said Australian Paramedics Association delegate Liu Bianchi. “This is because Nepean Hospital does not receive major trauma funding.
“This is a ludicrous situation which is placing lives at risk.
“If a person is critically injured in Springwood, for instance, paramedics are forced to take them the 50km to Westmead Hospital because it is the closest, designated T1 Trauma Centre, within a 60 minute travel travel time.”
Nepean Hospital intensive care specialist and trauma director Dr Marek Nalos spoke out about the situation in August, saying the situation was leading to many patients injured just minutes from Nepean Hospital tying up ambulances being driven to Westmead.
He called for the protocol to be changed to 30 minutes of travel time from the place of injury to the nearest regional or major trauma hospital.
Greens MP and Health Spokesperson Dawn Walker is due to visit Nepean Hospital this afternoon (October 9) to speak with ambulance officers, doctors, nurses and local community members about their concerns with the effects of the protocol.
Ms Walker holds serious concerns about the local implementation of the policy, and said she was keen to hear from health workers and community members about the range of issues at Nepean.
“This is taking ambulance cars away from the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District and patients away from their families,” she said in a statement. “I’ll be meeting with workers and community members [today] to hear more about their concerns and discuss how they can have their concerns heard by decision makers.
“Another issue people have already raised with me is the impact of funding shortfalls and ‘bed blocking’.”
The Association stated the trauma protocol caused added pressure on already stretched paramedic numbers in the Nepean, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury areas, because once paramedics have transported their patient to Westmead, they are often caught up servicing emergency calls in the Westmead areas, leaving the Nepean, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury areas without adequate ambulance coverage.
“This is a classic case of bureaucratic bungling, a farcical situation that would be comical if it wasn’t dangerously risking patients’ lives,” said APA (NSW) Secretary Steve Pearce.
Mr Pearce said NSW Ambulance had failed to defend patients’ rights to be taken to the closest trauma centre and had instead rolled over like a pack of lapdogs, keen to please their Health Department masters.
“It is outrageous that the few intensive care paramedics in the Nepean, Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury areas, highly trained to manage major trauma, are being sent on extended transports to Westmead instead of transporting their patients to nearby Nepean Hospital.
“These are the same bureaucrats who have failed to increase paramedics numbers to cope with the ever growing number of emergencies.”
The NSW Agency for Clinical Innovation (ACI) – a state government body that “works with clinicians, consumers and managers to design and promote better healthcare for NSW” – released a statement late today saying Nepean Hospital was “relatively close” to Westmead, a major trauma service.
“Protocol T1 [which applies to Nepean Hospital] states that any major trauma patient meeting the set criteria for (or potential) major trauma must be transferred from the scene to the highest level trauma service within one hour travel time,” the statement said.
“This ensures that critically injured patients are brought as quickly as possible to the highest level of care, for the greatest chance of early survival and recovery.
“As Nepean is relatively close to Westmead (a major trauma service), a number of patients bypass Nepean as per the protocol."