Ambulance nuisance calls: Northern beaches residents urged to save triple-0 for emergencies

ONLY IN EMERGENCIES: NSW Ambulance Inspector Mark Whittaker has urged people to only call for an ambulance in an emergency. Picture: Geoff Jones
ONLY IN EMERGENCIES: NSW Ambulance Inspector Mark Whittaker has urged people to only call for an ambulance in an emergency. Picture: Geoff Jones

WONDERING why the ambulance you called is taking so long? Paramedics say it could be to do with the high number of non-emergency calls they receive every single week.

NSW Ambulance is getting called to everything from a sprained ankle to earaches, boils, constipation, hiccups and minor bleeds that only require a Band-Aid, and it's all soaking up thousands of hours of time that could be spent saving lives.

So concerned are they about these type of 'trivial' calls that they're pleading with northern beaches residents to only call triple-0 for an ambulance in an actual emergency.

Inspector Mark Whittaker has worked across the Beaches as a paramedic for years and has seen it all when it come to nuisance calls.

"I've had people who call because they can't sleep, I've even had someone ask if we can collect a pizza on the way to them," he said.

I've even had someone ask if we can collect a pizza on the way to them.

Inspector Mark Whittaker

Paramedics have also been called out for a sprained ankle when the injured person was sitting in a car with a friend who could have driven them to a medical centre.

"There's a limited number of ambulances, especially on the northern beaches, so there may be delays in getting an ambulance to a person who really needs it," Insp Whittaker said.

NSW Ambulance Assistant Commissioner Steven Norris said non-emergency jobs take paramedics and call takers away from their most important work - saving lives.

"If you are having a medical emergency we will always respond to you, but too often our paramedics are responding to calls that we simply don't need to attend," he said.

"If it isn't a medical emergency, please consider other health services such as your GP, a pharmacist or a registered nurse at HealthDirect which is available 24 hours a day."

Despite the number of nuisance calls, Insp Whittaker urged anyone having an actual emergency such as shortness of breath, chest pain, severe headache or significant bleeding to always call triple-0.

Trivial calls for help

In NSW, for the 12 months to March 31, 2021, paramedics responded to:

  • 1036 calls for constipation
  • 662 for a toothache
  • 215 for earaches
  • 167 for boils
  • 157 people who couldn't sleep
  • 16 for hiccups

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