A FOOTBALL player with a neck injury was left waiting on a Ballina sports field for 36 minutes, despite there being an ambulance station just one kilometre away.
Murwillumbah player Nic Crompton was injured in the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League premiership against the Ballina Seagulls at Kingsford Smith Park on Sunday and taken to Lismore Base Hospital where he was discharged later that evening.
Ballina sponsorship coordinator Wayne Shepherd said he phoned 000 at 4.39pm and was told there were no available ambulance crews at Ballina and one would be sent from Byron Bay.
Witnesses said it was 5.15pm before the ambulance crew arrived.
Health Services Union state secretary Gerard Hayes said the trend of ambulance crews having to fill in for other areas was an "extremely common" occurrence across New South Wales.
He said the NSW Premier Mike Baird experienced a similar delay in ambulance response times at a Shute Shield rugby union match in Sydney about six weeks ago.
"The delays are there because the resources don't exist," he said.
"It's getting dramatically worse every year.
"The consequences of these things are life-threatening issues for people who really need emergency medical care."
Mr Hayes said the slow response times were in no way a reflection of the paramedics themselves, but rather the chronic levels of under resourcing.
"The paramedics are so well respected they've got people from Britain coming out to try to get them to work in England," he said.
"There's just clearly not enough paramedics."
NSW Ambulance said the call, which described a conscious and breathing patient, was assessed as a category 1C and a paramedic crew was sent at 4.43pm.
A category 1C is the third most serious, behind 1A which is "imminently threatening life" and 1B which is "potentially threatening life".
According to NSW Ambulance, just 10% of all calls are for life-threatening emergencies.
"A challenge facing NSW Ambulance is that resources are being tied up responding to incidents which could be better dealt with by people utilising other health pathways," a NSW Ambulance spokesperson said.
Ballina doctor Colin MacDonald, who assessed Mr Crompton on the field, said the slow ambulance response time due to lack of resources was "not acceptable".
"Sooner or later someone's not going to be saved that could be saved," he said.
"I've been working in this area for 30 years and over that time the actual amount of money that's been put into the medical system is behind other sections."
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