Relatives of a 63-year-old Plymouth woman claim her chances of surviving a dangerous fall were reduced because of a long wait time for medical attention. They said the presence of an ambulance base in the community would have made a difference, if only the base was operational.
However, Tobago Regional Health Authority officials say while the base is operational there was a problem with staffing specific to the day in question.
The deceased woman, Pamela Henry, died at her family home after waiting close to an hour for medical help to arrive.
Her sister Laurel Henry spoke with Tobago Today about the circumstances, which lead up to her death.
“Everything was normal, she didn’t complain of feeling sick, she ate and was watching TV. While I was downstairs cleaning up I heard a sound and I realised she fell. Her sister and I ran upstairs and we propped her up and called the ambulance because she couldn’t get up but she was responsive,” Henry said.
The incident happened around 11.20 am on Tuesday (September 22). And when they called for medical assistance they were told that an ambulance would have to come from Lowlands (approximately 20 minutes away), which would take a while because there was no ambulance at the Plymouth base. The Plymouth ambulance base is five minutes away.
According to Henry, while waiting on the arrival of the ambulance, her sister became unresponsive.
“We got her dressed for the hospital and after a while we realised she stopped talking and she was breathing funny. By the time the ambulance reached here it was about 12.15 pm and when they came and checked they said she was gone.”
According to Henry, although it “may have been her time” she believes that earlier intervention could have made the difference.
The ambulance base at Plymouth was opened in January 2016. The old Post Office Building was refurbished and extended to accommodate, staff quarters and two ambulances were to be permanently housed at the location. The base was opened to serve communities that lie between Buccoo and Mt Thomas. However, checks at the location on the same day of the incident (September 22), revealed that there was no staff or ambulances at the location.
When contacted on Wednesday for answers on operations at the base, acting Tobago Regional Health Authority CEO Westly Orr said the base is still operational.
“Yesterday, we were short-staffed during the daylight shift and while the incident was unfortunate, it could not be helped as we have three of our Emergency Medical Technicians currently out of the system on quarantine.”
Orr said while unfortunate, the incident was isolated. He said the unit is adequately staffed and well equipped in general but the removal of officers from duty had affected operations. He said the requisite quarantine period for the staff members was up on Wednesday (September 24) but that operations were to resume on September 23.
The Plymouth Medical Emergency Response Centre is one of five centers on the island. The others are at Lowlands, Charlotteville, Delaford and Parlatuvier.