Concern has been raised about continued ramping at regional hospitals as COVID case numbers increase after two SA Ambulance Service crews were delayed at Port Lincoln Hospital on Monday.
The Ambulance Employees Association of South Australia reports both ambulances in Port Lincoln were ramped one carrying a COVID-positive patient.
Association industrial officer Josh Karpowicz said that on arrival the paramedics found the emergency department was busy and the ambulance was on the ramp for one-and-a-half hours before staff spoke to them, altogether waiting just under two hours before admission.
He said at the same time Port Lincoln's other ambulance was ramped for just under three hours with an elderly patient, who grew agitated and left the ambulance and ended up being transported back home.
"During that time when both crews were ramped at the hospital, another 000 call came in for Port Lincoln, and a volunteer crew from Tumby Bay had to be sent to respond," he said.
"Then on Tuesday morning, the ambulance service announced an Operation Status Red event for Whyalla and Port Lincoln due to increased workload in town and more emergencies."
Mr Karpowicz said the association had already seen ramping happen in Whyalla and Mount Gambier and now it had extended to Port Lincoln.
He said with COVID cases rising across the state, including in regional areas, there would be increased demand and it was not right for communities to see their ambulances held up, or for others to have their ambulance having to go elsewhere to pick up the slack.
"In regional areas ramping literally deprives towns of an ambulance," he said.
An SA Health spokesperson said hospitals across the state were prepared for admission of COVID patients and the utmost care would be delivered.
"We have protocols in place to ensure the safety and care of COVID-19 patients at our regional hospitals," the spokesperson said.
"Patients presenting to our emergency departments will be treated according to their clinical needs with the care of emergency patients being prioritised as always."
Meanwhile, the association says it is organising for a batch of rapid antigen tests to be rolled out to ambulance staff across regional areas in coming weeks.
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