A choking toddler's emergency treatment was delayed because an ambulance was mistakenly sent to Southland rather than a childcare centre in Lower Hutt.
Central Emergency Communications in Wellington has investigated and apologised to the 2-year-old boy's family for the "unacceptable" mistake and "any unnecessary distress" that was caused.
The error was made when a call for help was received from the Childhood Concepts Early Learning Centre in Birch St yesterday morning after the boy pried apart a container and drank a "bubble bath" type liquid.
Staff watched as he choked, coughed and spat out the substance, thinking an ambulance was on the way.
At the same time - more than 700km away - Chantal McEwan, 31, was surprised to see paramedics with an oxygen tank show up at her home in Birchwood-Wairio Rd, Wairio.
Her family was told they were there to treat someone who was choking before admitting to Mrs McEwan: "It [the emergency] was supposed to be in Wellington, not here. Sorry for the inconvenience."
About 20 minutes after receiving the plea for help the call taker from Central Emergency Communications realised she'd made a mistake and dispatched another ambulance, which arrived at the scene about 10am. The Fire Service also responded.
Senior station officer Rob Sullivan said the boy had been choking and coughing after drinking a "bubble bath" type liquid. He had also tried to spit out the substance.
"It's what a 2-year-old does when they don't like what they've drunk," Mr Sullivan said.
The boy was eventually taken to Hutt Hospital with "minor issues" and assessed at the emergency department.
Central Emergency Communications is run by St John and Wellington Free Ambulance. Acting manager Hank Bader said the error was immediately brought to the attention of senior staff.
A review of "standard operating procedures" would be conducted to ensure a similar incident did not happen again.
The incident follows a formal complaint last week by Naenae man Tama Lawson who was upset when a call taker told him an ambulance would not be sent to help his injured daughter unless he gave a street address for a Naenae shopping mall.
This week the service apologised to Mr Lawson and explained its dispatch system needed a street address to complete a call.
However, "common locations" could be included in the system and the mall had been added to help prevent similar incidents.
After yesterday's incident, Mrs McEwan said she was concerned someone could have died as a result of the error.
"It's pretty disgusting if comms got that mixed up."
The ambulance service has three call centres - Northern, Central and Southern. She suggested a move back to a more regional model might help fix the problem.
A National Health Board spokeswoman said last night the shift to the national call centres was a "positive move". Fairfax NZ
- © Fairfax NZ News
Your club information portal, post or view your sports fixtures, results and general information.
Check out what's on in your community or post an upcoming event.
Subscribe to a digital replica of The Southland Times.
Southland Times subscriber news and information.
Click here for information about advertising with The Southland Times.
Buy copies of photos featured in The Southland Times.