Lack of staff causing long delays in emergency ambulance services – union

Call out to attempted suicide took 1 hour 40 minutes, by which time victim was dead

STEPH, the Portuguese union of pre-hospital emergency technicians has today denounced several cases of long delays in sending out INEM ambulances, at least one of which resulted in death.

In a statement, STEPH refers to a case in Faro, which involved a suicide attempt and for which INEM “could not find an ambulance available to send” with the necessary speed.

“For a case with this degree of priority, with an effective risk to life, an emergency medical vehicle was only sent to the scene one hour and forty-five minutes after the initial call“, said the union said, adding that death was declared on the spot.

The problem with this ‘shortage of ambulance professionals’ is that it is an issue that is generally only prevalent during the summer months. Yet April saw “many ambulances with more than 50% of schedules unfilled”, STEPH’s union boss Rui Lázaro has told the parliamentary commission on health.

“If in April the scenario is like this, in two or three months we’ll be much worse”, he said – adding that May sees two events “that require more resources, and in August, the World Youth Days in Lisbon” will see hundreds of thousands of visitors converge on the capital, potentially increasing the need for ready medical assistance.

As Lusa explains, STEPH’s concern is that the current situation constitutespossible serious negligence” on the part of INEM medical emergency services.

Rui Lázaro described various recent ‘failings’: another case in the Algarve, this time in Olhão, where a 60-year-old woman, with a suspected stroke, waited more than two and a half hours for an ambulance.

There was also a 74-year-old man, in Tavira, again with a suspected stroke, who waited 52 minutes before help arrived.

Among complaints received just this week were cases of a 63-year-old man, from Seixal complaining of shortness of breath, who waited 54 minutes for an ambulance, and another, aged 60, with suspected hypoglycemia, who waited in the Algarve (Olhão again) for more than an hour for an ambulance.

“Unfortunately the concern we have expressed to members of parliament about the high number of unmanned ambulances in such an early period of the calendar year has turned into a tragic outcome, which we deeply regret,” says STEPH’s statement.

Source material: LUSA