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Sacked chief puts forward Alderney ambulance plan

Alderney | Published:

ALDERNEY’S sacked chief ambulance officer met States members yesterday to unveil a proposal which would see the crew return to work before Christmas.

Sacked chief ambulance officer Mel Walden addresses a meeting of Alderney States members at which she put forward a plan to reinstate the service, which collapsed when the staff walked out. (Picture by Emma Pinch)

Mel Walden was summarily dismissed by the board of Alderney Ambulance after an independent review concluded that the service was unsafe and unsustainable.

It highlighted a list of failings including non-functioning batteries on defibrillators and alleged that various pieces of equipment were out of date and unserviced.

It criticised the lack of medical supervision by a medical director and found clinical assessments to be inadequate.

The nine-strong crew walked out in support of Mrs Walden and Guernsey paramedics have been drafted in to provide cover. From today, however, Guernsey cover stops.

The States of Alderney has announced it has started training new volunteers for a new service and they will be supported by the fire service.

Mrs Walden insisted that the service was not, and had never been, ‘unsafe’.

She rebutted the report, written by bank paramedic Richard Webber and presented to the crew and States Members on 2 December.

Back-up life-saving equipment in working order was always available – for example defibrillators in responders’ cars – and at no point were lives at risk, she said.

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Mr Webber failed to acknowledge the delivery of replacement parts during his visit, did not take into account those that were delayed in Guernsey and nor did he ask to see evidence of stock control, records of parts ordered, or training.

Neither did it take into account the size of the island, she said, where the short journey to hospital cut short communication with the patient.

The battery that failed on the smaller mobile AED device had been checked, but on the day of inspection it failed.

‘I should have ordered two batteries a couple of weeks ago; that’s a lesson learned,’ she said.

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‘People need to remember every voluntary service we have inspections and you have time to comply. No one is going to be perfect, there are always going to be issues.’

Seven States members attended the informal meeting, held in a function room at the Georgian House pub.

Mrs Walden said the States’ solution was not robust or sustainable in the medium or long term, tied up the fire service and utilised hastily trained volunteers with no major incident training or experience – calling it ‘a disaster waiting to happen’.

‘The States would be ill-advised to throw away 128 years of collective experience,’ she said.

‘This would be a huge loss and an unnecessary risk to the community. This is a crew that is very caring and compassionate and very well trained, and ready to go back the work with a simple phone call.’

She outlined a ‘life saving plan’ which, if implemented, would harness the skills and experience of the existing crew for the benefit of the island.

Mrs Walden said that Dr Aaron Pennell was ready to be temporarily reinstated as medical director; a senior paramedic and lecturer were ready to be seconded to Alderney for a four-month period to ensure correct policies were adhered to and clinical governance would be outsourced to Emergency Doctors Medical Service, which Dr Pennell is part of.

A new medical director, emergency medical specialist, Dr Christopher Press, would assume the role of medical director in the new year.

The plan, if implemented, would also require the two remaining directors on the Ambulance Board to stand down and the appointment of three new interim directors and the formation of a States sub-committee to review the situation after six months.

‘This solution, put forward to the States of Alderney, is very comprehensive and deepens the level of clinical governance as Guernsey brings in greater regulation for voluntary services. We think it’s extremely positive.’

States members, many of whom say they have been kept ‘out of the loop’ on ambulance service discussions, including the commissioning of the review, have asked Mrs Walden to produce some financing figures over the weekend.

Ambulance liaison for the States of Alderney, States member Chris Harris, said they hoped to convene a special meeting on the proposal in a formal States setting before Christmas.

‘We needed to hear both sides of the argument, and it would have been remiss not to come,’ he said.

‘We’ve agreed to consider the proposal and the details given to us and have a special Policy and Finance meeting as soon as we can to move forward.’

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