View Full Version : Mother forced to do CPR on own child while paramedic drove

01-10-2008, 05:39 AM

A Tokoroa mother was forced to perform CPR on her baby in the back of an ambulance this week when the vehicle arrived with only one officer.

The baby later died at Tokoroa Hospital.

A close family member, who did not want to be identified, said the family called the ambulance on Monday morning when the baby boy had difficulty breathing.

“The St John ambulance turned up with only one lady,” the woman said.

“She drove the ambulance to the hospital while the mother of the baby did CPR in the back.” The woman said the incident raised questions about why the ambulance was staffed by only one person, leaving a distressed mother to perform CPR.

“I would have thought the ambulance officer would do that,” she said.

“Why even bother calling the ambulance if the mother is going to do CPR?

“This issue needs to be dealt with. I’m really angry.

“You call the ambulance because you trust them when you’re sick.”

She said the death had been “very upsetting” for the family.

They were preparing for the baby’s tangi.

St John Ambulance regional operations manager Brent Nielsen today explained the circumstances surrounding the incident.

He said a single-crewed ambulance was sent to the emergency, and a call was placed to a back-up officer who was immediately sent to the scene.

It took nine minutes between emergency staff receiving the call and the ambulance leaving the baby’s house to take him to Tokoroa Hospital, 500m away.

Mr Nielsen said the second officer met the ambulance “moments after it had left the scene” and took over the driving, leaving the first officer free to resume CPR on the baby for the remainder of the trip.

The ambulance arrived at the hospital two minutes after leaving the baby’s house.

Mr Nielsen said the person at the scene agreed to assist with CPR, adding that at emergency situations where CPR was needed, it was common for more than one person to perform the procedure to ensure the patient received continuous care.

St John’s position on emergency responses was that all ambulances should be double crewed wherever possible.

“Single crewing is never a matter of choice it is a matter of available resources,” Mr Nielsen said.

“All emergency responses in New Zealand should be fully crewed. St John is focused on achieving 100 per cent full crewing for all emergency ambulances.”

Sometimes full crewing was not possible, due to the unavailability of resources (either paid or volunteer), or a higher than usual number of callouts in one area, Mr Nielsen said.

It was better to send a single-crewed vehicle than no vehicle at all, or to wait for one to come from further away.

Mr Nielsen said St John wished to express its condolences to the family.

My Response...

In the first half of the article, you get angry yourself, “Why even bother calling the ambulance if the mother is going to do CPR? This issue needs to be dealt with. I’m really angry. You call the ambulance because you trust them when you’re sick.” I cannot imagine the parents grief, but at first I was angry at the paramedic outfit, but when you read the rest, you get the full story and you can’t blame anyone really. It’s just a horrendously tragic event.

01-10-2008, 07:28 AM
This is as you say a tragic event. You wonder why if the hospital was so close the mother didn't run to the hospital with baby in arms, I couldn't have sat waiting for 9 minutes with a hospital 500 metres away. If no life support had been initiated in that time, then 20 paramedics could not have saved the babies life.

This kind of thing is always emotive, I'd be interested in the thoughts of those who work in EDs or who have worked as ambulance crews.

01-10-2008, 11:47 AM
500 meters is a third of a mile. Walking that distance shouldn't take too long - 5-7 minutes at most. But that's 5-7 minutes of not giving any medical care (CPR?) at all.

It took 9 minutes from the call to when the ambulance LEFT the house to go to the hospital. Getting the call, getting to the house, getting inside and having enough time to assess/scoop the patient, load them up... 9 minutes isn't bad, imo.

I'm sure it would have been faster, though, for someone else to drive a regular car to the hospital while someone stayed with the baby in the back seat to provide whatever care they could.

That's a hard situation.

Reynolds over at Random Acts of Reality is always blogging about materna-taxi's and I've certainly read about people calling an ambulance for non-emergent reasons. Who knows what the other crews were out doing at the time? Legitimate emergencies, or not?

Very tragic in any case. Horrific, even.

01-10-2008, 12:10 PM
I'm straddling the fence on this one. I understand the issue of time and availablity, but I think the availability for two persons per squad is essential. I think every ambulance should be equipt with two person; if nothing more than for the driver's safety. What if she had to pick up a violent patient?

This is certainly a tragic incident. Thankfully the mother was calm enough to even do CPR; yet the child died. I wonder if the mother blames herself, I'm almost certain the the squad does.

This is not emergency health care. It's a "hit and miss."

01-10-2008, 04:53 PM
I have worked on ambos for about 15 years both provincial(paid post) and Red Cross(volunteer). With province if the unit did not have two crew members it was stood down.
With the Red Cross we would do standby shifts from home. If you got a call out the first person to arrive at the base would get the vehicle started and if your crew mate was less than 3 minutes away you would wait for them. If your crew mate was more than 3 minutes away you would mobilize to the scene to stabilize the patient (the thinking was one person was better than nobody). Your crew mate would them meet you on scene in their private vehicle and you would both transport the patient to hospital. After completion of the case you would then drop your crew mate back at their vehicle and they would follow you back to base to clean and restock the ambo. The other option was, that most of the Red Cross members used to have a first response box in their cars and, if you had to pass the scene to get to the base in the first place, you would radio your crew mate and say meet me on scene. You would then go directly to the scene and initiate treatment from your private kit until the ambo arrived.

The case mentioned here with the patient being 500 metres from the hospital would it not have been faster for someone on the dcene to pick up the child and RUN to the hospital?

01-10-2008, 05:46 PM
Something seems wrong with this report. Like everyone has said 500m, you could walk it quicker than getting an ambulance. The report says that the child was having trouble breathing when the ambulance was called. Could the child have been unconscious when it was called and the story was changed to hype up the reaction of readers?