Airlifted heart-attack patient transferred to Lerwick hospital in rented van

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An oil worker who was flown to Lerwick from an offshore platform after suffering a heart attack had to be taken the final mile to hospital in a rented van because no ambulances were available.

The man was flown by the Sumburgh-based coastguard helicopter from the Heather Alpha platform, 92 miles north-east of Sumburgh, at around 6am on Tuesday morning. However, the helicopter crew waited half an hour for an ambulance which failed to arrive at the scene.

The patient was eventually transferred to the Gilbert Bain Hospital in the back of a Star-Rent-A-Car van, which arrived with a doctor behind the wheel.

A paramedic, who had been flying in the helicopter, went with the patient to the hospital where his condition was said to be stable and comfortable.

Improving Shetland’s ambulance cover was due to be raised by MSP Tavish Scott at a meeting with Scottish Ambulance Service boss Pauline Howie on Wednesday in Edinburgh.

Mr Scott said he had been pushing for an additional ambulance to reflect the needs and geographical circumstances of Shetland, and had supported many constituents who were making this case over recent months.

He said he also wanted to ensure that the ambulance service”s future strategy retained the helicopter cover in Shetland which provided lifeline cover for island communities in the event of an emergency call out.

Mr Scott said: “The main point I want to make to the boss of the Ambulance Service is the need for adequate ambulance cover across Shetland. Interestingly, the Western isles has six ambulance locations and 31 full-time staff compared to just one station – Lerwick – in Shetland and eight full time staff.

“Geography and population are of course different, but the scale of difference is significant. Shetland’s case for an extra ambulance and crew, in light of the pressures on existing staff, is strong.

“I want to explore with the Scottish Ambulance Service what steps they are taking to implement their recent strategic review which states that: ‘…where a patient lives should not affect the quality of the service they receive…’.”

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