Elderly patient waits over two hours bleeding on bathroom floor for ambulance

  • 13/01/2023

A 90-year-old man was left bleeding on his bathroom floor for two hours while he waited for an ambulance on Tuesday night.

It is the latest revelation of ballooning wait times after the stretched healthcare system battled with staff shortages last year. 

The man's main carer, Heather Braae, told the NZ Herald she found the pensioner curled up on the bathroom floor and bleeding from his head after he used his medical alert bracelet to notify her, an ambulance and his sister-in-law.

Braae waited with the man, who lives in Auckland, for an ambulance which she thought would never arrive.

"They called every hour to see if his condition had gotten any worse, and they told me to not move him and to not give him anything to eat or drink," Braae told the NZ Herald. 

Hato Hone St John Auckland operations support manager AJ Gabriel confirmed it responded to the medical alert at 8:39pm on Tuesday.

"We are aware that some of the medical information that has been reported is inconsistent with our records, however we are unable to disclose any specific details without permission from the patient," Gabriel said.

"When a Hato Hone Medical Alarm is activated it alerts our operators who will try to establish voice contact with the client directly. If they are unable to, a call will go to their chosen emergency contact. The call will also be transferred to the 111 call centre.

"In this case, contact was established with the patient’s emergency contact person, who stayed with the patient until an ambulance was available."

Gabriel said welfare checks were conducted every 30 minutes to ensure the patient's condition had not changed.

The ambulance arrived just almost two-and-a-half hours later at 11:00pm.

The patient was treated and transported to North Shore hospital in a moderate condition, Gabriel said.

Braae told the NZ Herald she felt pity for the stretched paramedics.

"I feel so sorry for the drivers, I'm sure it’s not their fault. I'm sure they're overworked and very stressed, the system isn't working for anyone," she said.

Hato Hone St John's 2022 annual report said 111 calls presented to the organisation increased 14.5 percent in 2021/2022. 

In November, St John told Newshub they are short of 182 full-time ambulance personnel. 

NZ Ambulance Association union delegate Mark Quinn said the shortage is the worst its seen in 25 years.

"It's critical at the moment. It's certainly the worst I've seen in my 25 years as paramedic."

It comes as severe staffing shortages hit most areas of New Zealand's healthcare system and wait times ballooned. 

Health Minister Andrew Little said it was the result of a "really tough winter" off the back of two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and there is continuing work to fill staffing gaps.

But workers and the Opposition deemed the sector "in crisis".