Ambulance crew sat in 16-hour queue at Scots hospital as worker describes ‘heartbreaking’ wait for patients

Ambulance crews and police vehicles had to queue for hours to hand over patients at a hospital as staff scrambled to find room for them in cupboards and clinic waiting rooms.

One crew waited 16 hours with a patient at Ayr Hospital and a police van waited for six hours with a patient they had picked up because there were no ambulances.

The hospital had a deluge of patients arriving at A&E last Tuesday night and struggled to cope.

Staff within Ayr Hospital claimed the demand for beds has reached “dangerous levels”.

One staff member told how an assessment area with a capacity for six beds had 40 people waiting to go inside. Ill patients were sitting in chairs and makeshift spaces were being created in cupboards and day clinic waiting areas.

She said: “I am embarrassed to be working for an organization where people are dying down to bed management.

“On Tuesday night, there were nine ambulances at A&E and the first one to offload had been sitting for 16 hours.”

She added: “There is a five-bedded rapid assessment unit which is a Monday to Friday day service but we were having to put patients in there overnight because there was no space.

Ambulances outside Ayr hospital

“We had to use cupboard areas where there is no oxygen supply for patients and we were taking chairs out of clinic waiting areas and putting patients in there with curtains round them.

“There is also a bariatric room where we were putting two patients but there is only one oxygen supply and one call buzzer.

“If someone had a cardiac arrest, the other patient would be watching it all happen.”

And she told how a carer went out to a house in Girvan and found a man slumped on the floor.

She called the social work department who, in turn, called the police.

She said: “The man wasn’t being arrested or anything but the police brought him to hospital because there wasn’t an ambulance available.

“They then sat with him for six hours in the back of their van in the car park until their sergeant in Girvan told them they would have to leave him in the hospital.

“The police brought him inside in a wheelchair but he couldn’t sit in one safely on his own so we had to get a member of staff to give him one-to-one care.”

She added: “It is heartbreaking leaving at the end of your shift because you know you can’t deliver the service you should.”

Jackie Baillie MSP
Jackie Baillie MSP

Trade union Unite has been at the forefront of highlighting the lengthy ambulance delays.

Last night, Jamie McNamee, Unite SAS convener said: “The dangerous and sometimes fatal length of time ambulances are waiting outside A&E units has serious implications for the physical and mental wellbeing of the patients and ambulance crew.

“We see no evidence that the investment the Scottish Government boasts about is actually making any difference on the front line.”

Labor health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “It is shocking. It is very clear from the Royal College of Emergency Medicine that people will lose their lives in these circumstances.”

A Scottish Ambulance Service spokesman said: “We’re working alongside health boards to try to help mitigate wait times through joint escalation plans and increasing alternative care pathways for ambulance clinicians to support patients.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The pandemic has had a real impact on services like A&E.

“We offer our apologies to any patient whose waiting time has been unacceptably long.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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