8 Sep 2015

Not rare for paramedics to seek public help - union

6:29 am on 8 September 2015

Understaffing means it is not uncommon for an officer working alone to seek public help to get a patient into an ambulance, or even to drive the vehicle, a union says.

Wellington Free Ambulance.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The comments follow a report that found a woman died in 2013 because a paramedic failed to give her enough care, including portable oxygen.

The paramedic was working alone because a volunteer crew member had failed to wake up when called.

A series of problems occurred including the 69-year-old woman's daughter having to help her mother onto a stretcher and being asked to drive the ambulance, which she refused to do.

The paramedic was also trying to visually monitor the patient while driving to the hospital.

The Ambulance Association's Geoff Flaus said the death was regrettable, but ambulance services were both underfunded and understaffed, which he said increased the risk of fatalities.

"He shouldn't have been in a situation where he felt he had to ask a family member to drive the ambulance.

"These are big trucks, they're not small vehicles, and this is the price you pay for not being double crewed or fully crewed," he said.

The paramedic has been demoted to emergency medical technician.

The ambulance service, which was not named, was not faulted in the report.