New Zealand's emergency hotline 111 may soon come under fire with authorities with its rising number of calls reportedly gone wrong.
An ambulance responding to a 111 emergency call
Other deaths were associated with 111's defective defibrillators, ambulance delays and administration of wrong medication. A report in the Order of St John contains details of the 30 cases described as "serious and sentinel" which was sent to the Ministry of Health for review. A summary table was released to the New Zealand Herald as covered by the Official Information Act.
According to St John Chief Executive Peter Bradley and the ministry staff, the number of emergency responder failures in March 2013 was "very low" compared to the 400,000 calls responded by 111.
Mr Bradley said every call is important to New Zealand's emergency response team. He said processes are in place to monitor and improve current systems to promote patient safety. Mr Bradley added every case is reviewed including the way the response process and action.
Death of mother and baby
A coroner has investigated a case which involves the deaths of a mother and infant after an ambulance failed to arrive on time and take them to the hospital. The 20-year-old mother Casey Nathan died in Waikato Hospital just hours after giving birth to a baby boy at Birthcare Huntly in May 2012.
Her son, Kymani Nathan-Tukiri, died days later in the hospital's newborn intensive care unit. The newborn had reportedly suffered from organ failure during birth. A spokesperson for St. John said midwives were attending to the patient. The emergency response team received the call requesting for an urgent transport to a hospital with better care for the mother.
The ambulance arrived to transport the mother after 20 minutes.
Jen Hooper, Action to Improve Maternity Trust founder, said her own investigative research had confirmed the response team failed to arrive on time to take Ms Nathan and her newborn to the hospital.
According to Ms Hooper, St John has upheld a reputation for quality service but there may also be other factors that led to the mother and child's deaths.
Slower response times
The Official Information Act report revealed 2 cases in which 111 responders assigned wrong priority codes to emergency calls. It was found that the ambulance was called in eight minutes late and arrived at the scene 12 minutes late.
The ambulance was driven in legal speeds instead of blazing through traffic with sirens blaring. The slow response time meant a delayed response on the part of 111. The patient was already dead by the time paramedics broke into the house.
In another case, 111-call takers assigned the wrong priority code to a patient suffering from a heart attack. By the time the ambulance arrived, the 77-year-old man was already dead.
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