An elderly man with a suspected broken hip was left waiting nearly four hours for an ambulance in icy conditions yesterday.
The chairman of the Shetland Community Safety and Resilience Board has said that the ambulance service has urgent explaining to do in light of the incident.
A 78-year-old man fell and was left lying on ice outside his house in Vidlin before the crew of a fire engine got him into his porch and fed him oxygen and tried to keep him warm.
First response was provided by the Brae fire crew which arrived just after 10.05am.
The 999 call was made at 8.30am but an hour passed before the ambulance service, which was unable to send a vehicle, summoned the help of the fire brigade.
The Brae fire crew members later called for extra help from the Sandwick fire brigade, which is understood to have the only spinal board in the Shetland fire service. The board is a simple device used for extracting patients with suspected spinal or leg injuries.
When the Sandwick appliance arrived just after midday, the man had already been taken into his porch by the Brae fire crew. The firemen also laid down grit to help the ambulance.
It was 12.20pm before one of the Lerwick-based ambulances turned up. A doctor also arrived on the scene but by that time the ambulance had departed for Lerwick with the patient.
NHS Shetland said this afternoon that the injured man was in the Gilbert Bain Hospital and was stable and doing well.
Safety board chairman Alastair Cooper, whose council constituency includes Vidlin, said today that he was shocked that one of his constituents had to wait so long for treatment.
He said it was “terrible” that the ambulance service had been unable to respond quicker and that the Yell ambulance could have taken the ferry and been there before the Lerwick one turned up.
Mr Cooper added: “As a community, we need to know from them as a service that this can be resolved and will never happen again. The community absolutely must be reassured by the ambulance service.”
The Scottish Ambulance Service was contacted by The Shetland Times this morning, but has not yet responded.
After this article was published, the ambulance service issued the following statement:
“We received a call at 9.22am on Sunday 13 December to respond to a patient in Vidlin who had fallen. One ambulance, normally on shift at 7am, was not available to respond as the crew had attended a number of calls throughout- the night during the on call period and were booked off fatigued.
“The other ambulance was dealing with calls at that time. Ambulance Control asked the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service to respond and maintained contact with them to ensure that the patient was stable and comfortable. The second ambulance was dispatched when it became free, arrived on scene at 12.13pm and transferred the patient safely to hospital. Arrangements were made on Sunday morning to fly a paramedic to Shetland to provide additional support to local teams.”
• More in this week’s paper.