The Nation's Health + [Paramedic]

The Late Job

"82 year old male, fall, no injuries"

It is 4:45am that I'm writing this post. I should have been asleep for almost two hours by now, instead, I was two hours late off from work. Again. In my last post 'Fed Up' I listed at length the annoyances ambulance crews face on a daily basis. If there was one we could fix, one that winds us up more than anything it is finishing late every single day. More often than not it's only half an hour or an hour but sometimes a lot more. And like I said, it is EVERY day, bar none. If you ask any crew, no one minds being late off the a genuine job and no one minds being a little late off for a job that over ran. What we all take umbrage to is being late off because the powers that be abuse the system. I know the term stitch-up is often used and probably sometimes unfairly but there are times when it seems that is exactly what has happened.

It had been a normal, very busy 12 hour shift. In fact, it was the busiest day of the year so far. Well over 5000 calls and that is on a Tuesday. During the shift we left a bag on scene at a job. Obviously we needed to pick it up and as luck would have it we were able to do so with minimal time off the road. My crew mate joked:

"I bet we'll pay for that later!"

Like every day, we had gone from job to job to job, no rest break and a distinct lack of ambulances at hospitals. At times it had felt like we were the only ones working. As we hadn't had a break we were supposed to finish at 02:15. At about 00:45 we were at hospital having just dropped our patient off and 'greened up' looking for our 'off job'. I'll now list what happened for the next hour and a half.

00:47. Dispatched 6 miles away. 22 year old male, nausea & vomiting.

00:59. 0.2 miles from the location. 'Cancelled. Call downgraded'.

01:04. Dispatched 8 miles away. 77 year old female, fall.

01:19. After arriving at scene. 'Cancelled call downgraded'

01:28. Dispatched 4 miles away. 25 year old female, DIB.

01:32. 0.5 miles from location. 'Cancelled, quicker responding unit'

01:50. Arrive back at ambulance station.

This is when we realised why we had been run ragged all night. The garage was full. 7 ambulances and 5 cars. All unmanned. No night crews on. No other late turns. No FRU's. None of these were offered on overtime. All the staff from our station who were at work had been sent to 'priority complexes' leaving our area uncovered. Why? Because targets are easier to meet on ambulance stations where the call volume is closely populated. Less distance to travel, higher call volume and more ambulances means in that area a greater percentage of targets will be hit. It is so frustrating seeing so many vehicles unmanned, not only because it is highly likely we will get a late job so they have an extra ambulance for an hour but also because I know there are calls waiting for an ambulance. Some for hours. All night EOC were putting out waiting calls on a general broadcast basically begging for any ambulance to offer up for them. Maybe, instead of constantly fixing short term goals they look at long term. Maybe instead of 5 yearly hire and fire exercises they improve staff morale so 25-30 people don't quit every month. Instead of wasting money on media friendly exercises and initiatives how about fund proper ambulance cover in an ambulance service. Yeah right!

02:13. Dispatched 11 miles away. 77 year old female, fall. Yes, the one we were cancelled off 54 minutes ago. Yes, we are supposed to finish in 2 minutes.

02:30. The computerised voice on the MDT says, "Callsign, Echo Three One Five, Not on shift" How ironic. We clearly are.

02:31. Arrived on scene.

03:14. Leave scene to hospital.

03:32. Arrive at hospital.

04:06. Leave hospital.

04:18. Arrive back at station.

04:30. Sign off and go home.

Not only was this totally unavoidable it was totally typical and unsurprising. We could have been on scene well over an hour sooner, in fact we were. There is not a credible reason I can be given for what happened. There is no credible reason why they waited until 2 minutes before we were off to re-send us, other than it would be an extra resource on the road for another hour. But at the end the day, that is all we are. A resource. Not people with homes to go to, with families to see, with lives out of work, with kids to put to bed. None of that even registers on their radar. Let us not forget, they are never 2 hours late off. This constant abuse of the system is what angers road staff so much and is one of the main reasons for morale to be so low. If this was an isolated incident then maybe it wouldn't matter but it isn't. It has happened time and time again and will continue to do so. All we can do is grumble!