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September 27, 2010

Man dies after waiting 3 hours for ambulance in Australia

ABC Premium News

BURWOOD, Australia — Ambulance Victoria is investigating why a man, who died after swallowing detergent, waited more than three hours for an ambulance at the weekend.

The Burwood man called an ambulance at 11:30pm (AEST) Saturday night, but it did not arrive until just before 3:00am.

The man in his 50s made at least three calls to Ambulance Victoria to find out when the paramedics were arriving.

Ambulance Victoria spokesman James Howe says the man was conscious, breathing and speaking to them on the phone.

"When the first paramedic crew arrived, they were talking to the patient," he said.

"Then several minutes after they were there, the gentleman collapsed and went into cardiac arrest."

Mr Howe said Saturday night was unusually busy.

"Our workload was up approximately 50 per cent from a normal Saturday night," he said.

"We were trying to balance demands of a number of patients and available crews. As such, by talking with this patient, we believed he was stable and able to wait."

He said although it was busy they had a full complement of staff.

He says Ambulance Victoria will conduct an internal review and hold discussions with the coroner.

Steve McGhie of the Ambulance Employee's Association says the man may have called the dispatch centre as many as 10 times while he waited for an ambulance.

He blames understaffing and says the coroner should investigate.

"There's a potential here that this gentleman should have survived and if an ambulance was dispatched to him earlier," he said.

Copyright 2010 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

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