THE SCOTTISH Ambulance Service yesterday (Wednesday) expressed embarrassment after a sick oil worker had to be taken by hire van to hospital in Lerwick, when no ambulance was available on Monday night.
A spokesman for the service conceded that this wouldn’t have happened had a second ambulance for Shetland mainland already been in place.
The man from the Heather Alpha platform was airlifted by helicopter to the Clickimin landing site, in Lerwick, but on arrival no ambulance was available to take the man to the Gilbert Bain Hospital, less than five minutes drive away.
Islanders have campaigned long and hard for an improved ambulance service in the isles after a number of incidents last year, when ambulances failed to attend emergencies quickly enough.
Yesterday Shetland MSP Tavish Scott received assurances from the SAS chief executive Pauline Howie that the second ambulance, with a crew of six retained staff, would be in place by the end of March.
Mr Scott was also told that the SAS was in the process of employing three further patient care assistants to boost the patient transport service at the Lerwick station.
He said: “Ms Howie accepted that Monday night’s incident was not acceptable and absolutely made the case for a second ambulance with the accompanying staff that is needed.
“I asked for assurance that that ambulance and crew are to be in place by the end of March when they hoped to have concluded their necessary training, and I was told that that was what they were aiming at.
“I have no doubt that Monday’s incident where an injured worker was transported from Clickimin to the Gilbert Bain Hospital by private van, rather than by ambulance, has sealed the deal for the new arrangements in Shetland.
A spokesman for Ms Howie said: “Clearly, the introduction of the second, retained, ambulance, in March, will alleviate a situation like that in the future.”
As it turned out, the SAS was in the process of arranging an off-duty member of staff on Monday night to fetch another ambulance vehicle to transport the sick oil worker to hospital.
But since this took too long and the helicopter arrived at the landing site earlier than initially expected, the casualty was taken to hospital in a hire van. “We were not involved in whatever decision was taken,” he said.
He also confirmed that Ms Howie was planning to visit Shetland again at the end of March.