Ambo angels get a raw deal on the job

The Advertiser, 7_29_2019 (Carol Whitelock)

LAST Sunday evening something terrifying happened at our house.

We were watching TV when my husband suddenly started making strange gurgling sounds, as though something was caught in his throat. He seemed unable to breathe, was clammy and deadly pale.

I tried to help change his position, and kept asking what was wrong. He gazed at me with open but totally vacant eyes. I quickly called 000 and was talked through what to do until help arrived.

It came, and two lovely, calm, capable young women quickly assessed the situation. The plan was to head for Wakefield St hospital emergency department. (Being a bit political here, we do have private health cover, and I believe if so, you shouldn’t burden the overcrowded public system.) Wakefield St wasn’t receiving, so we headed to the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

On the journey I was asking the paramedics about their day, and lives. I was horrified to learn they work a 10-hour shift, with no meals or rest breaks. This is madness. How can you make complex medical decisions when you’re tired, and brain and body are starved of fuel? I want to stress that these fine young women were not complaining to me. I was asking them questions, and becoming totally outraged by what I heard.

I asked about the Emergency Services Levy. Ambulances are certainly an emergency service. Where does that money go? Apparently they now come under SA Health, and so don’t receive it.

I asked if they were ever abused by people they were trying to help. “All the time,” said one. “I’ve been spat on, kicked, threatened with a knife and someone tried to strangle me. It’s often drugs, or alcohol, or just plain nasty people who are angry at life.”

We arrived at the RAH and all was quiet. “We’re lucky they’re not ramping tonight,” said one of our health angels. “Taxpayers don’t like waiting for five hours or more on a stretcher in the vehicle before they get seen.”

In the past I’ve been very critical of the way the system works, based on information from clinicians, and friends who’ve been treated in public hospitals, including the RAH.

However, we went straight in (Sunday evening about 8pm) and were soon assessed.

Nurses were efficient and kind, and within about two hours my husband had been examined, comprehensive tests done and results delivered. The lovely young doctor was tired and longing for a cup of tea. I’d willingly have made him one!

We were sorry to say goodbye to our wonderful “ambos”. The way they have to work is insane. The service needs more funding.

I think most reasonable people would agree to paying a special levy to do this.

Or how about all those anticipated tax rebates going instead to a service that may one day save your life?

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