Richard Madeley and Ann Widdecombe use ill baby to abuse paramedics
AN ambulance crew took more than 40 minutes to reach a critically ill baby because they were on a lunch break, his parents said last night. Eight-week-old Thomas Passant “died” for four minutes before being resuscitated after a heart attack and is still fighting for his life. He has undergone 14 hours of open-heart surgery and faces a life of disability.
Parents Kate Oram and Matthew Passant called West Midlands Ambulance Service after Thomas had a cardiac arrest at their home in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, on December 17. They were stunned when the operator told them the crew was unavailable as it was on a lunch break.
A family member was disappointed:
Thomas’s grandad [sic] Paul, 56, said: “I understand they have got to have breaks but if years ago when I was a fire officer I had sat outside someone’s burning house and told them I was just going to finish my sandwich, I don’t think they would have been at all pleased. They knew how critically ill Thomas was and how important time was. It’s disgusting….It is always going to be in our minds the damage that has been done to Thomas’s heart was caused by the hold-up of the ambulance service. My grandson will have a disability and he’s going to miss out on so much. It is breaking our hearts.”
West Midlands Ambulance Service replied:
“The crews work 12-hour shifts and have the right to a meal break. Staff can request that their break is not disturbed, meaning they will not show up as an available ambulance. The crew sent to Thomas was on an undisturbed break when the 999 call came through. As soon as it was over, they were shown as available and sent to Bridgnorth.”
This was picked up by Madeley on January 12:
LUNCH is for wimps’ – Gordon Gekko in the seminal movie Wall Street, released in 1987. Twenty-five years on, Gekko would make short work of the West Midlands Ambulance Service. Incredibly, paramedics refused to interrupt their lunch break despite an emergency call for an ambulance to attend…
No. They did not refuse.
Well let’s see, shall we? What would it be OK not to abandon your Ginster’s sausage rolls and scotch eggs for when the 999 call comes?
Because paramedics only eat cheap fast food you can buy in a petrol station shop.
I’ve been working on that question for a while now and I’m pretty stumped. What is it acceptable for a paramedic to ignore because he or she is having their lunch?
In that time of rumination, Madeley might have done some research. But in place of the facts, he goes on:
So what did a paramedic team in Shropshire decide was a lesser priority than feeding their faces?…the grotesque truth is this. West Midlands Ambulance Service’s finest continued to munch their lunch after a six-week-old baby boy suffered a heart attack. His family dialled 999 but had to wait 41 minutes for an ambulance to come, because a crew were on their break and couldn’t be interrupted.
A spokesman for the West Midlands Ambulance Service says that staff work 12-hour shifts and ‘have the right to request’ that their breaks are not disturbed. So the shift in question didn’t even know about the 999 call until they’d wiped their mouths.
Undisturbed lunch breaks? Even if that means a baby might die while you’re finishing off your Muller Fruit Corner, guys? Really?
If you believe that, you’re in the wrong bloody job, the lot of you.
They are in the wrong job. Says Madeley, the journalist. He never did read the Mail’s quote from West Midlands Ambulance Servic – words published on January 6:
“Due to the level of demand at the time of the call, every ambulance in Shropshire was committed to a patient. The Community Paramedic arrived 15 minutes after the start of the call and began to treat the boy. Throughout all this time, the control room continued to search for an available ambulance. It is also important to note that at the time of the call to Stourbridge Road, an elderly woman who had suffered a stroke in Bridgnorth, was already being tended to by an ambulance crew and was taken to Princess Royal Hospital, becoming available at 1.42pm. There would not have been an ambulance available in Bridgnorth and an ambulance would have been called in from elsewhere to tend to the boy. The response would not have been quicker; it could even have been longer.”
The College of Paramedics did read Madley’s diatribe. They stated:
“It’s simply not true that this crew sat ‘feeding their faces’ knowing that a patient, in this case a baby, was suffering a life-threatening heart condition,” said Andy Proctor, Paramedic spokesperson for College of Paramedics members in the West Midlands.
“It’s absolutely outrageous to suggest that this or, indeed, any paramedic or ambulance crew would knowingly sit eating a meal whilst a child’s life is at threat . We believe that this article has totally misreported the facts in this case.”
“What he [Madeley] also didn’t mention is that a paramedic was already at the patient’s side within minutes, providing life-saving treatment.
“Not only has it caused worry and humiliation to the individuals concerned, it has also caused worry and concern in the local population.”
Jim Petter, Director of Professional Standards, for the College of Paramedics, called it “inaccurate and poorly-researched journalism”. Madeley’s words have “resulted in not only abuse and threats to one of the country’s most dedicated and selfless professions, paramedics, but also potentially caused anxiety, stress and concern for others, including the family of the patient referred to.”
Chair of the College of Paramedics Council and Consultant Paramedic, Professor Andy Newton, said paramedics had been defamed.
Chief Executive of the College of Paramedics, David Hodge said:
“..it is extremely disappointing to read such an article which plainly has not reported all the facts clearly. While we are disappointed that the child had to wait so long for a transporting ambulance when being so ill, I must stress that he was being attended throughout by a life-saving paramedic and that the paramedic crew, so criticised in this article, would not even have been aware of the call.
“We fully support paramedics throughout the UK and also in this instance the West Midlands Ambulance Service. We recognise the immense pressures placed on paramedics, which sometimes involve entire shifts of 12 hours or more, under high pressure, without a proper meal break.”
Pass the humble Ginsters, Madeley. His article has been removed from the Express online.
More of the ill child’s loved ones spoke out:
…at lunchtime on Wednesday, the family of baby Thomas joined the Facebook debate in defence of paramedics. Matthew Passant, Thomas’ father, posted: ”I’m the childs father who the article was about and let me tell you me and my partner have nothing but gratitude to the paramedics who attended to my son Thomas and the paramedics know this as we have spoken to them and their bosses personally.” He also wrote “your paramedics, along with the doctors and nurses and everyone else on the way is the reason why our son is still alive and recovering every day.”
And Thomas’ aunt, Kate Passant, posted:
“We as a family were shocked to read this article and just want to say thankyou to the paramedics who attended. The paramedics that attended him did an amazing job and helped save his life.”
So. What did the Express do? Well, before Madeley’s story was expunged from the web, another of the paper’s columnists spoke out. Anne Widdecombe thundered on January 9, 2013:
A BABY of eight weeks is facing possible disability for life as a result of an ambulance crew finishing its break before going on a 999 call.
No. Wrong.The paramedics did not cause the child’s suffering.
I can think of few more genuine emergencies than a baby having a heart attack.Amazingly West Midlands Ambulance Service is completely unrepentant.
“Staff,” says its spokesman, “have a right to meal breaks.” They do but babies have a right to the chance of going on living.
They are baby killers?
Members of that crew had better pray that if they ever need to call out the emergency services they don’t find themselves in a clash with a copper’s cuppa or a fire fighter’s elevenses.
…Britain has sunk to a new depth.
I doubt if this is the nadir and confidently predict that public services will worsen before they get better and nothing is more corroding than a belief that the service exists for the benefit of those who staff it rather than those who need it.
The eroding of public confidence in the emergency services is terrible. There is “nothing more corroding“. Take care what you say, then, Ann. Get the facts straight:
…the emergency services is to protect the public, not the staff’s nosh. Elementary, Dear West Midlands Ambulance Service.
Any more, Sherlock? She harks back to the halcyon days of mass industrial action:
…Demonstrating nurses would drop their banners and run to the scene of a car crash, the family doctor would come out in the early hours, the police would always take a risk when confronting criminals, firemen did not hold back from blazing buildings.
And the public responded with trust and gratitude.
Yet now lunch comes first and a dying baby second and that is apparently all quite normal and unworthy of any fuss.
If I had treated my constituents that heartlessly then there would have been a reaction at the ballot box but these officials with their taxpayer-funded wages and pensions are not it seems accountable to anyone. Not to heartbroken parents nor to a suffering baby nor to the disabled adult he may become nor to the taxpayer.
Sack them. Remove their pensions. They must learn!
Sometimes I rage against the society we have become and when I saw the photograph of eight-week-old Thomas Passant I cried out to heaven itself. I rage of course in vain because at Westminster they are preoccupied with gay marriage, wind turbines and whether a future heir to the throne should be allowed to marry a Catholic.
Blame the gays!
Nero fiddling while Rome burned is the image which comes to mind.
Or as chair of the College of Paramedics Council and Consultant Paramedic, Professor Andy Newton, put it:
“The story of baby Thomas Passant continues to be misreported in a way that disparages the very hard-working paramedics who were on duty that day and who are entirely innocent of the allegations made against them. We understand the level of public outcry against these stories. The British public is 100% behind our country’s paramedics who, every day, go beyond the call of duty in very traumatic circumstances and always put the interests of their patients before anything else.”
Madeley then returned to his laptop. Below the headline”EMERGENCY SERVICES ARE NOW IN CRISIS” he and wife Judy opined:
IT seemed like an open and shut case. It took 41 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the West Midlands home where a baby had suffered a heart attack. Why? Because the crew were on an “undisturbed” meal break and couldn’t be called out until they’d finished. The rules are rigorous. Undisturbed means undisturbed. This is the policy set by the ambulance service.
Seven days on, I am 100 per cent certain that I got this part of the story wrong. No mealy-mouthed apology, this. Yes, the crew had requested a break but they had no knowledge of the 999 call until they clocked back on. In the circumstances my criticism was unjust.
You got it utterly wrong. Saying “sorry” might be an idea for portraying hard-working medics as lazy, heartless swine.
The whole issue of breaks for hard-pressed ambulance crews has emerged as a virtually unanswerable conundrum. And it’s the policy, not the crew, that raises such difficult questions.
Crews are forbidden from unauthorised contact with the media so many men and women risked their jobs in speaking directly to me this week to lift the lid on this vexed issue.
Eh? What should be an apology has become the story of brave Madeley, journalist extraordinaire:
I am grateful to them. Hearing some of their stories it’s a wonder we have an ambulance service at all. I’m surprised they don’t all hand in their badges and opt for an easier life.
Like as a columnist, say, amazed and aghast at the lot of the working stiffs, reporting on their lives in the toen of Dr Livingstone meeting the natives:
One crew member told me she and her colleagues can be dizzy with exhaustion at the end of a manic shift. After six or seven hours on the go they are desperate for something to eat and drink and a chance to collect their wits before the onslaught resumes. A “disturbed” break sometimes just isn’t an option.
These are human beings, not machines.
It needed saying, Richard. He concludes:
I am heartily glad to set the record straight and will be accepting one of the numerous offers I’ve had to spend a 12-hour shift with a crew.
After which, Madeley will be an expert who feels your pain. He might even learn to say one thing his apology lacked: the word “sorry”.