Kenepuru A&M ambulance replacement too radical

Editorial

BY MATTHEW DALLAS
Last updated 08:49 11/09/2012

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OPINION: The architects of the proposal to replace Kenepuru's overnight accident and medical service with paramedics seem to have a lot of faith in the model, but I wonder if they're underestimating the faith people put in doctors and nurses.

Key users of the after-hours service at Kenepuru between 10pm and 8am would have to be parents with sick kids and I struggle to see these families sitting at home waiting for a visit from a paramedic who could be some distance away or diverted to a more urgent call-out.

No disrespect to the skills of paramedics.

But these are our kids and if we're worried about them enough to seek medical attention in the wee hours, we want them to see a doctor.

And while we're waiting, should their condition deteriorate, we want to know help is close at hand.

The death of Wellington 12-year-old Amanda Crook-Barker last week from meningococcal disease was every parent's worst nightmare. Rash at 3pm, dead by 5pm.

It is cases like these that flood parents' minds when their child wakes at night with a raging temperature, unusual rash or complaint of soreness.

Healthline is often the first port of call and a trip to after-hours is routinely their advice if parents don't feel comfortable waiting until the morning.

Under the proposed model, Healthline would instead pass on callers to a paramedic for an over- the-phone assessment and scheduled house call.

Would this suffice?

Are you confident of accurately describing over the phone your child's rash or the way they're breathing?

Can you trust the paramedic to ask the right questions?

Are you content to wait for an ambulance that may get diverted to an emergency or a call-out prioritised higher than yours?

Or, would you just drive to Wellington Accident and Emergency, bypassing the "roving paramedics" in favour of the certainty of a real triage, a real waiting room and real doctors?

Though anyone who's endured time-consumption Wellington A&E-style will know this is hardly a short cut.

I appreciate that when devising the most effective and efficient provision of primary healthcare, parental peace of mind isn't the top objective but mums and dads will endure sleep-deprived late- night drives and lengthy waits in triage to get it.

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