Ambulances wait outside Nambour General Hospital.
Ambulances wait outside Nambour General Hospital.

Angry ambos threaten to resign

PARAMEDICS are threatening to quit amid growing anger at ambulance ramping outside the Sunshine Coast's major hospitals.

The Daily has learnt at least four paramedics plan to leave the region next month because of working conditions.

It follows an alleged incident where an ambulance in Noosa was called to a "severe respiratory distress" 55km away in Caloundra because other units were unavailable.

Ramping occurs when patients are forced to wait on an ambulance stretcher in a hospital corridor before being admitted, sometimes for up to five hours.

Ambulance officers are often expected to wait with their patients until they are seen by hospital staff.

A photograph provided to the Daily shows nine ambulances ramped outside Nambour General Hospital last weekend weekend.

A Coast paramedic and United Voice union representative said there was about 22 to 24 crews for the Coast during the day.

He said on occasions after 11pm, all 12 night crews were ramped.

"We attract a lot of officers but they don't last," he said.

"The workload on the Coast is high.

"Many get lured to the mines where conditions are better," the spokesman said.

"I look forward to the government hopefully passing legislation to give paramedics power to transport patients with minor illnesses to GPs and after-hours clinics."

Another paramedic, who did not want to be named, backed up his colleague's reports of ramping.

"We're fed up," he said.

"If we were able to go there (hospital) and offload every patient in half an hour, the ambulance service wouldn't have an issue."

Member for Caloundra and Opposition Health spokesman Mark McArdle said ramping was not acceptable.

As a measure to cut back on the practice, he called for Caloundra Hospital emergency department to remain open after the new hospital opens in Kawana in 2016.

The government has already announced that the department at Caloundra will close when Kawana opens.

Yesterday, Queensland Health district CEO Kevin Hegarty maintained this would be dangerous.

"The decision to transition ... was based on advice from experts," Mr Hegarty said.

"Clinical staff would not choose to work at a small hospital when a major emergency department with all support services and specialties is in close proximity."

Mr Hegarty said patients triaged as category one never wait.

"The latest official statistics show a marked improvement in ambulance off load time," he said.

"In October, 87% of ambulances at Nambour hospital were offloaded within 30 minutes.

"This is while the emergency department experienced a 9% growth."

Mr Hegarty said the improvements in patient flow were due to the opening of additional beds, extending the transit unit opening hours and the establishment of a fast track area.

An allocation of $11.5 million has been made to expand Caloundra emergency department to relieve pressure between now and 2016.