Another Shocking Day for Ambos and Their Patients

August 31, 2020 / Comments (0)

Media Releases

Saturday 29th August saw yet another “OpStat (Operational Status) Red declared at 11:45 a.m. still going at 9 p.m. OpStat Red, by SA Ambulance’s own definition is, in brief, a situation where “levels of demand are having a sustained impact on SAAS ability to deliver safe, quality patient services”

The Ambulance Employees’ Association (AEA) has been raising concerns about unsafe staffing for years. AEA Secretary Phil Palmer said today that “This is the 12th OpStat Red in the last couple of months, each time because SAAS have been caught out with not enough ambos to meet demand.”

“Yesterday was an absolute shocker”, Palmer said “In SA Employment Tribunal last Friday the Government lawyers were giving ambos a hammering, the next day our ambos got another hammering from an unmanageable workload; there were significant problems with significant consequences.”

A distressed AEA member sent the following message to his colleagues, which says it all:

“Well today was the worst day I have ever experienced in my time at SAAS, roughly 75% of the metro crews did the entire 12 hour shift without a single crib.

A person died today because we took 18 minutes to get an ambulance resource to them, and even then it was only a single responder. Would they have died anyway if we had been there in 5 minutes (or even hit our own KPIs) who knows??

I’m sure on Monday we will see the health minister or the CEO explain how there wasn’t any problem and all we had to do is divert from low acuity to higher acuity patients or call in the mysterious additional crewing that can be brought in during surges of high workload! Quite frankly as someone who’s paid to manage resources watching these blatant lies is insulting.

I used to be proud to say I worked for the ambulance service. Now I’m ashamed! I’m ashamed that we can’t help people who genuinely need us when they are dying because the government gives more of a f*** about money than they do about staff and patient safety. And then they have the audacity to cram patient centred care down our throats every chance they get, it’s embarrassing.

I just hope something gets done before more people die. And god forbid it’s not one of our family members.😩”

The death was an elderly patient in the southern suburbs for whom no ambulance was available so a solo responder was sent. Due to lack of resources, there was a 5 minute delay between when the 000 call was made, and the solo responder assigned to the case. The solo responder arrived about 15 minutes after the 000 call, and commenced CPR whilst waiting for help from an ambulance crew – which took another 9 minutes. The patient died whilst the ambo was desperately trying to save him. Effective CPR is difficult to maintain over a period exceeding 2 minutes.

“We cannot say for sure whether the patient would have survived if attended earlier, but we can say unequivocally that whatever chance he may have had was denied by the lack of ambulances” Palmer said. “Lives at risk and fatal outcomes are becoming more and more likely due to Government inaction; it is a disgrace. We grieve for this patient’s family, and for all patients to come who will be let down.”

On Saturday there were long delays to patient care, and ambos were having to respond under emergency conditions over long distances putting themselves and other road users at risk. Some examples posted by members are:

  • Unresponsive patient in Shower. Hypertensive. No ICP car pending on a 2. Lucky it only took 30 minutes. Even up grading it to a 1
  • Firstly our crew did not get a meal break at all and finished at 2030 hrs (half hour past finishing time) so 12 1/2 hours with no meal break…. I believe only two southern crews got a single crib each possibly OH63 and MT63, all others I believe were in the same or similar situation with no cribs with late completion of their shifts. Totally unacceptable, dangerous to crew and patients and must be breaching so many regulations.
  • Secondly there were a number of P2 drives by crews from RAH to southern regions. Mine specifically was a RAH to Christies Beach (off western end of Beach Rd)…and then P2 the patient back into FMC (hypotensive tachycardic).
  • P2 from Victor Harbor to Willunga as we were closest car. Last week it was p2 from Victor to Sellicks as only available closest crew.
  • P2 from RAH to Mount Barker hosp.
  • It’s now almost 15:30 and not a single south crew has had crib. ANY CRIB… NOT A SINGLE CREW!
  • Ambulance from Fulham to back up solo responder at McLaren Flat who was alone in having to deal with three injured cyclists from a vehicle accident.
  • It even happens in the deepest, darkest corners of the country. Last Wednesday at Naracoorte the crews – 2nd break commenced at 1500, broken at 1503, recommenced at 1640, broken at 1646, recommenced at 1800, broken at 1805 – finally back on station to knock off at 1930. Absolutely no further resources, either career or volunteer, available in the area.
  • Never in my 20 years have I heard as many uncovered P2s called out in a shift, as I have all day today (and still now).
  • We just got P 2 to Hackham. We’re currently in the CBD
  • Another P 2 in Morphett Vale, crew tasked from Netherby.


Palmer said, “All day Saturday ambulance crews were missing breaks (cribs) some working over 12 hours without a break, which compounds the problem; a tired and hungry ambo is at risk of making fatigue-related errors, especially at the end of a long distance emergency drive.”

The AEA has been warning of dire consequences for years, and calling out the Government for sitting on it’s hands while SA Ambulance descends into chaos. Minister Wade and Premier Marshall are just sitting and watching it happen, and Treasurer Lucas in his role as Minister for (poor) Industrial Relations is actively refusing to provide the funding needed, spending money on QCs to avoid providing safe ambulance staffing rather than actually providing it.

The AEA will hold a media conference at 1 pm at the union’s offices, 13 Hindmarsh Place, Hindmarsh


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