As ramping issues continue throughout Adelaide, the ambulance union says patients have been forced to catch taxis to hospitals.

Key points:

  • Fifteen people were left without ambulances on Tuesday, the ambulance union says
  • The union says employees are struggling trying to keep up with continued demand
  • The State Government is investigating what happened on Tuesday

The Ambulance Employees Association (AEA) has revealed there were 15 emergency, “potentially life-threatening” cases waiting for an ambulance at about 6:00pm on Tuesday, with no ambulances available to send.

Three cases waited more than 90 minutes for assistance.

Audio taken from the metropolitan ambulance dispatch channel at 8:30pm on Tuesday stated several “uncovered” cases — where an ambulance was not on the way — in suburbs including Blackwood, Belair, Seacliff, Norwood, St Marys, Oaklands Park and Morphett Vale.

AEA industrial officer Leah Watkins said the audio was only a snippet from the metropolitan south channel, with the metropolitan north channel reporting similar circumstances.


“These are all of the cases that we did not have an ambulance for at that time.

“The metropolitan north channel, at that time, also had priority twos uncovered at Woodville North, Hindmarsh, a vehicle accident in the city, and an overdose at Stepney.”

Ms Watkins said ambulances were ramped at hospitals or already at other jobs, while other non-emergency crews were responding to other emergencies.

“Patients were finding their own way to hospital — some via taxi,” she said.

“We were simply completely inundated and unable to cope.”

While the AEA is not aware of how long the patients were left waiting, it said they deserved “better”.

A spokesperson for the State Government said it was working on the issues within the system, and patient flow had played a part in the delays.

“Ambulance ramping is unacceptable, and the government is actively working to address the situation,” the spokesperson said.

“Ambulance ramping is a whole-of-system issue.

“If patients are not flowing through our hospitals, ambulances are less able to transfer patients into Emergency Departments.”

The spokesperson said patient flow had impacted response times on Tuesday evening.

“Our hospitals had problems with patient flow yesterday and when our ambulance service had a busy night, ramping occurred,” the spokesperson said.

“We are rolling out a range of initiatives to ease pressure on our Emergency Departments, such as priority care centres and mental health co-responders and working with our hospitals to improve patient flow.”

Ambulance staff feeling ‘demoralised’

The issue is repeatedly putting lives at risk, Ms Watkins said.

“One of them was having chest pains at Seacliff — that could have been someone having an active heart attack, and every minute they’re not receiving treatment is an increased risk of mortality.

“Cyclists — plural — at Blackwood, hit by a car, with no ambulance to send.

Ms Watkins criticised the State Government’s handling of continued ambulance issues, reiterating that last night was not just a “surge”.

She said response times for the ambulance service have been deteriorating “for years”.

“Increasingly, over several months ago, we started hearing priority two cases waiting with no ambulance to be sent,” she said.

“The number of cases slowly started to increase from five to seven, up to ten — we hit 10 and we thought that was bad … now 20 (has) been the record.

Staff have reported they feel “demoralised, exhausted, exasperated” and “at the end of their tether”.

The AEA also claims “a significant number of those” staff are seeking jobs elsewhere within the ambulance service, because they feel “destroyed by this situation”.

Shadow Health Minister Chris Picton said this was “a shocking situation”, and took aim at cuts to the state’s healthcare system.

“This keeps getting worse, in terms of the ramping situations and delays to ambulances,” he said.

“Just the other day, we saw a report released by the government that at the end of last year, there were two deaths associated with ambulances not being able to get to people on time.

“There were 38 cases where there were significant issues or risks of adverse incidents.”