An Auckland DHB needing to get seriously ill patients from one hospital to another is turning to a new way of using paramedics to ease the workload on doctors and nurses.
It comes as staff at Waitematā District Health Board say they’re grappling with a booming population bringing in more and more sick people.
The DHB covers both the Waitakere and North Shore hospitals.
Normally it’s doctors and nurses travelling with patients as they’re transferred between them for the likes of surgery and intensive care.
“So we’ve got them on heart monitors, we’re giving them pain relief, we’re monitoring their blood pressure and respiration rate and their heart rates and we’re taking really good care of them,” nurse Leanne Scoringe told 1 NEWS.
But being with these patients in the back of an ambulance takes the doctors and nurses away from other duties back on the hospital floor.
“The whole area is growing and we do get a lot more sick patients than we used to,” Scoringe said.
A country-first pilot is hoping to solve the problems, has already saved a life, and has gained support from staff.
It involves using paramedics employed by the hospital to be in the back of the transfer ambulances, getting used to different kinds of treatment than they’d find in their normal paramedic duties.
Sarah Werner, staff paramedic, is one of those taking part in the trial stretching through until next June.
“So for me it’s about practising in a different way, practising still as a paramedic and using my medical skills but in a different environment,” she told 1 NEWS.
She said the trial is letting her extend her knowledge and skills.
“For me I’ve learnt a lot. When I take patients into the emergency department wearing my ambulance hat we don’t necessarily know what happens to the patients from thereon in,” she told 1 NEWS.
“And you’re involved in those aspects of care that previously I wouldn’t have been if I was working in a frontline ambulance.”
Werner said one of the changes was getting used to different ways of doing things, with hospitals running differently to ambulance services.
The Waitematā DHB pilot is a New Zealand first and has three paramedics taking part.
They are also used to help in the emergency department when they’re available.
The DHB says the programme is “a win for everyone” and the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine agrees.
Its president, John Bonning, told 1 NEWS it makes sense to have allocated resources and skilled paramedics doing the transfer work.
“They’re not coming off the shop floor to do things and it’s not an inconvenience for them so I think it’s a really good use of resources and I support the trial,” he said.
“We’re still sending doctors with the really critical ones that are on ventilators to intensive care but the skillset of paramedics is ideally suited to working in the back of ambulances.”
The trial looks to have already saved at least one life, paramedic Sarah Werner said.
“I had a patient who I transited that was really unwell and I really didn’t feel comfortable with taking the back to the ward and so I made a call to transit them straight through to the emergency department to the resuscitation team.
“A) I recognised it, and B) we were able to be in a position to do something about it,” she said.