Not enough staff for ambulance

LACK of manpower meant Felixstowe port's ambulance could not be used to help a dying heart attack victim waiting for regional paramedics to become available, it emerged today.

LACK of manpower meant Felixstowe port's ambulance could not be used to help a dying heart attack victim waiting for regional paramedics to become available, it emerged today.

Nine ambulances on duty in Suffolk were already on 999 calls when the tenth call came in - and it was 17 minutes before one could reach motorist Alfred Clark.

For a life-threatening situation an ambulance should arrive in eight minutes.

Over the years, the trained crew from the container terminal has attended hundreds of emergencies in and around the resort.

But on Sunday unfortunately there were not enough staff on duty - and the possibility of an incident at the port had to be first priority.

Public relations manager Rachael Jackson said the port fire and ambulance station did receive a call from the East of England Ambulance Service but were unable to respond as they only had three staff on shift at the time.

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“As they are required to send a minimum of two paramedic/firefighters to an emergency incident off the port, such as the one on Sunday morning, this would have left only one qualified paramedic/firefighter within the port,” she said.

“This is not deemed sufficient coverage for any emergencies that may occur on the port, so for health and safety reasons the team were unfortunately unable to attend this particular incident.”

That left a community of 30,000 people plus thousands visiting the seaside on a sunny Sunday being served by an ambulance which had to come from Hintlesham when it finished dealing with its previous 999 call.

Police officers performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on Mr Clark, 76, of Pauline Close, Clacton on Sea, after he collapsed at the wheel and collided with a parked car at the junction of Sea Road and Platters Road.

The ambulance crew took over when they arrived and then took him to Ipswich Hospital.

Mr Clark was declared dead at about 11am. A post mortem later showed he died of coronary artery thrombosis.

Today Evening Star AmbulanceWatch campaigner Ian Heeley branded the situation as “absolutely ludicrous”.

He said: “It's crazy - 17 minutes is not good enough for someone who has suffered a heart attack.

“The paramedics do a fabulous job and they will have been heartbroken that they could not get there sooner but they cannot be in two places at once dealing with emergencies.

“The management in charge though need to seriously look at this.

“Felixstowe is set to grow with the building of more than 1,700 extra homes - other communities are set to grow, too - and we need to know that cover is going to be increased because response times must be quicker than this.”

A spokeswoman for the East of England Ambulance Trust said the incident had unfortunately happened at a peak period when all ambulances on duty were needed.

Should ambulance cover be increased? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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