NSW Ambulance paramedics called out to over 500 complaints of constipation

  • Published July 1, 2024
  • Industries

The Daily Telegraph, 1 July 2024

Thousands of trivial non-emergency callouts are putting mounting pressure on paramedics and the NSW Ambulance service. See the list of ridiculous calls our ambos responded to.

People suffering from trivial issues like constipation, hiccups or giant pimples in unreachable places made thousands of calls last year to the state’s ambulance services, clogging up the triple-0 helpline.
Constipation is one of the most common non-emergency call-outs, with more than 500 frustrated people calling an ambulance for the issue in 2023, according to new data from NSW Ambulance.

Nearly 200 people called the ambulance for a toothache and nearly 80 for earaches. NSW Ambulance also receives a litany of calls from people who can’t get to sleep, with 51 insomniacs calling triple-0 last year.

Among the ridiculous calls was a person who needed help with a giant pimple on their back and a person who got an earplug stuck in their left ear. Nearly 60 calls for ambulances were made by people wanting treatment from pustular boils on their skin.

Other people called the ambulance to help remove splinters from fingers or to help with an ingrown toenail. Three people last year put in calls to triple-0 because they had the hiccups. One patient called emergency services due to an onset of hot flushes.

While NSW Ambulance does not record the exact number of trivial or hoax call-outs, paramedic authorities say they receive thousands per year.

Health authorities warn the litany of trivial calls clog up helplines and put pressure on the health system.

Health Services Union NSW secretary Gerard Hayes, who spent years as an intensive care paramedic said calls about difficult bowel movements slowed down help for people who needed it the most.

“We all just need to remember that if you call them when you’re constipated or you’ve got a grazed knee, you might be slowing them down from getting to a child who isn’t breathing or a family member having a heart attack,” the paramedic union boss said.

“We would encourage everyone to think very carefully about how they use triple-0. Our paramedics do an amazing job but they can only be in so many places at once.”

NSW Ambulance Paramedic Patrick Treweek is one of Sydney’s many paramedics who balances non-urgent call outs with life-threatening emergencies.

NSW Ambulance chief executive Dr Dominic Morgan said ambulances were designed to provide transport in urgent medical situations.

“Examples of life-threatening conditions include chest pressure or pain lasting more than 10 minutes, difficulty breathing, uncontrollable bleeding, or sudden collapse,” he said.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park urged people who call ambulances for trivial matters to use the Healthdirect line instead or visit an urgent care clinic. This comes as Mr Park announces the expansion of two urgent care clinics in Castle Hill and Auburn today.

He acknowledged part of the reason for the influx of non-urgent calls to triple-0 was the increasing difficulty of getting a GP appointment.

“We know it’s more difficult to find a GP than ever before – there were fewer GPs in NSW in 2023 than in 2018 – and that is having severe consequences,” he said.

“If you need care for urgent but non-life threatening conditions or are unsure where to go for medical help, please take advantage of the free and quick advice from a Healthdirect nurse.”