Code excludes fractures from emergency ambulance trip

Numbness in your limbs will get an ambulance to you quicker than a hip fracture.

Code excludes fractures from emergency ambulance trip

If you have slipped and believe you may have fractured a hip or a knee, don’t assume an ambulance will treat your accident as a priority for transport to hospital.

In fact, you may be left waiting in pain for as long as it takes the ambulance officers to attend to someone complaining about tightness in their chest.

Sudden numbness or paralysis of the face or limbs are also considered emergencies over cases involving suspected broken bones, reported Associate Professor in Paramedicine Bill Lord in The Conversation.

The University of the Sunshine Coast academic has suggested it may not be effective to allow an operator answering a call to 000 to decide the merits of the emergency and whether to send an ambulance.

“Attempts to define a health emergency often fail to appreciate that the definition is dynamic and depends on context,” Prof. Lord wrote.

“A complaint of weakness associated with prolonged vomiting and diarrhoea may not be an emergency when you have family support and transport options. But it may be an emergency when the patient is an elderly person living alone without support.”

He said a caller to emergency asking for an ambulance will be taken through a computer-generated script by the operator, who is not medically trained.

“They attempt to define the health problem, and determine the response required: lights and sirens, or not. But the deployment of paramedics for non-urgent health problems reduces their availability to respond to medical emergencies and major incidents.”

Prof. Lord said that adding to the problem was the fact that most Australians were unfamiliar with what constituted an acute condition that needed immediate attention.

“Poor health literacy affects the person’s ability to interpret health advice and navigate the health system to identify options for unscheduled care. Research from the Productivity Commission found the majority of Australians have inadequate health literacy. The proportion is greatest for those with chronic conditions,” he said.

“Taking into account the difficulties of making crucial decisions during a crisis situation, there are a number strategies which may facilitate more effective use of ambulance resources.”

He also argues that it may be preferable use experienced clinicians to screen emergency calls and “direct the caller to the most appropriate health pathway”, whether that be to dispatch an ambulance, or initiate a home visit by a doctor, nurse or paramedic trained to manage non-urgent health problems.

If you’re confident enough to navigate health information, you may find sites such as healthdirect useful, Prof. Lord said.

“This service uses a web-based algorithm to question the user about the nature of the health problem to direct the patient to local health services based on the nature of the complaint.”

Alternatively, you can call the Government’s 24-hour, seven-day a week healthdirect service to speak to a registered nurse on 1800 022 222.

“But if you’re unsure whether an ambulance is required, it’s okay to call 000 for advice. After all, delaying a call for a serious health problem can lead to a catastrophic outcome,” Prof. Lord said.

Have you ever been unsure whether your sudden medical issue requires an ambulance to attend? Have you ever been turned down for ambulance attendance after calling 000? Do you know of anyone’s condition worsening and endangering their life after an ambulance refused to attend?


    Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    2nd Aug 2018
    Good Grief.
    Ring 000.
    What you should know:
    What service you require. (ambulance, police, fire)
    Your name, phone number and location
    How many people are injured and the nature of the injuries
    If inside, unlock the front door if you can.
    Do not hang up the phone unless they tell you to and follow their instructions.
    2nd Aug 2018
    Priority? - some years ago, I had an accident, leg in plaster. Live alone. Area with neighbors not really close by. Woke in night, in extreme pain, and collapsed. Crawled to phone, called ambulance. Managed to unlock house, still lying on the floor in agony.
    Ambulance arrived - then they chastised me because I did not ring for a taxi! Exact words! Have never forgotten that, and I would be very averse to phoning for an ambulance again, after the way I was treated.
    2nd Aug 2018
    I must admit I had the Ambulance guys come to my house under similar but different circumstances and they said, "I'd be OK'.
    I think it must have been change of shift time. I ended up having a family member drive me to hospital and then I spent a week in hospital.

    Sometimes these guys are just tired I think. But like you - even though they were pleasant enough to me I would be reticent to phone for help in a hurry.
    2nd Aug 2018
    This is why those who live alone need one of those emergency buttons things you hang around your neck..not everyone can get to phone.

    2nd Aug 2018
    It sounds like bloody Keystone Kops are in charge!
    2nd Aug 2018
    Those in charge will always prioritise a life-threatening scenario over a painful one. I had to wait for seven hours on one occasion when my husband was immobilized with pain from a crush fracture of his spine. A friend who had a bad fall resulting in a really horrendous fracture of her shoulder had to wait in severe agony for close to two hours despite my begging for help. On both of these occasions the delay was due to higher priority calls to be attended.
    Also keep in mind that in this day and age many ambulances with their crews are left ramped at emergency departments waiting for their patients to be attended to, as the emergency departments are full!
    2nd Aug 2018
    Interesting comment by Prof. Lord suggesting "preferable use experienced clinicians to screen emergency calls". I was an ambo for 33 years, now retired. From the time I started until the service was taken over by the government, all the dispatchers were clinicians. The system was perfect, all callers were questioned by someone with years of road experience, who could triage the call in a few questions, no a 10 minute script. The government 'fixed' that 'flawed' system by employing civilian dispatchers, it was cheaper.
    2nd Aug 2018
    the Government took over the system, they employ people to take the calls (ANYONE) , I have had people answer my 000 call that could barely speak English for god's sake, the system was better when it was run by the medico's themselves, I have no doubt the Government taking over was another cost cutting exercise on their part, I am disabled and have been in and out of hospital for over 18 years, if I ring an ambo I don't have a choice, if I am well enough to drive I would not need an ambo
    2nd Aug 2018
    Instead to attened ill or injured people, it seems they rather attened to overdosed drugies and pick them up several times a week
    2nd Aug 2018
    Funny thing is this extract from my current read by Lionel Shriver: 'The Mandibles. In God We Trusted' (an extract of which reads) -

    "I see things in my elderly clients all the time, of course: we're about to run out of water, or run out of food, or run out of energy. The economy's on the brink of disaster and their (hundreds of thousands) will turn into pumpkins. But in truth they're afraid of dying. And because when you die, the world dies, too, at least for you, they assume the world will die for everybody.................. that's why old people get apocalyptic: they're facing apocalypse, and that part, the private apocalypse, is real. So the closer their personal oblivion gets, the more certain geriatrics project impending doom on their surroundings. Also, there's almost a certain spitefulness, sometimes."

    The world as we knew it continues to change and whether or not we feel uncomfortable with change is merely a matter of conjecture. Sure we can lament the 'way things were done' but hand wringing and brow beating is highly unlikely to alter the course or form of any change. Adaptation is easier done than said, the more we bitch about something the harder we make it for ourselves. The Health system is there for everyone and ideally, preferential treatment shouldn't be obvious but from personal observation it seems the system is becoming clogged with old farts - presumably with high expectations of livin the dream....forever! Saints preserve us.

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