Truckie left waiting hours for ambulance that never arrived

A two-up couple have shared their frustration after a fellow truckie fell ill while on the Barkly Highway in the Northern Territory and was left waiting over four hours for an ambulance that never arrived.  

Karen and Stephen Ceissman were on their way home to Tin Can Bay in Queensland in the middle of the night when they heard a call over the UHF.  

“We heard someone call out ‘Is that you Steve and Karen?’ on the radio around 2.45am,” Karen said. 

 “The caller identified themselves and said they were opposite the Barkly Homestead in their truck and felt really crook.  

“My husband was asleep but I knew the driver very well, so I didn’t hesitate to stop.”  

When the Ceissmans pulled over, they found their friend dripping in sweat and retching. 

“He said he had never felt so sick before,” Karen said.  

“At first I thought it was maybe appendicitis or even a heart attack, but he wasn’t grey around the gills.  

“Then I thought maybe it was severe food poisoning as he had been trying to throw up but couldn’t.”  

The sick driver said he had called the ambulance services at Tennant Creek about half an hour before Stephen and Karen arrived.  

“I know it’s about a two to two-and-a-half hour drive from Tennant Creek, so I said I would wait with our friend until the ambulance arrived,” Karen added.

“About ten minutes after I got there, he called again just to check, and the ambulance services said they definitely had an ambulance on the way.”  

Karen continued to wait with the truckie, who eventually managed to vomit.  

“He said he felt a bit better after that, and we could go if we wanted.  

“I figured the ambulance would only be about an hour away at that stage.  

“I didn’t want to leave him but I had a medical appointment at home that I couldn’t miss, and he did look a bit better.

“So we left and said we would check in with him when we next got phone range.”  

When Karen finally managed to get in touch with her friend again, he said he had fallen asleep and woken up at 6.30am to find a message on his phone from the ambulance service.

“They were making a welfare check on him,” she said.  

“They hadn’t sent an ambulance because they couldn’t find one to send!” 

Karen is very upset at what happened because she said the situation could have turned out very badly for her friend.  

“I’m absolutely gobsmacked,” she said. 

“It’s bad enough the amount of time he had to wait to start with, but then not to have sent an ambulance at all, especially after he confirmed it was on the way? 

“What if he’d had a burst appendix, or worse?”

She understands that the ambulance services in the Northern Territory are under-resourced, but she said that needs to change.  

“It’s not the first time we’ve come across situations like this,” she said. 

“Considering many drivers are on the older side, especially out here with the road trains, it’s very scary.  

“My husband is in his 60s – what if something happens to him? 

“It’s just not good enough.”  

Director of Ambulance Services St John NT, Andrew Thomas, told big Rigs that St. John NT “regrets that the patient had this experience” but it should be noted that they only have one emergency ambulance crew contracted to provide services in Tennant Creek, covering a 250km radius from the town centre.

“Unfortunately, in this instance, at the time that the call was received, our Tennant Creek crew was attending a higher priority case and not available for some time,” he said.

“Based on the clinical assessment of the patient over three separate phone calls, the time and distance to Barkly Homestead in the early hours of the morning, and the low acuity nature of the call, the response was delayed for the oncoming day shift commencing at 6am.

“When we called the patient at 6.35am he cancelled the ambulance indicting he felt much better and no longer required assistance.

“We acknowledge that we could have kept the patient better informed of our availability and are pleased to hear that his condition has improved.”



    1. Yeah you can definitely “ say that again”. No doubt with the Greens ,” Inner City Snowflakes” and other so-called Environmental Groups there’s nowhere else to go but “ downhill”

  1. So true Dave if our politicians weren’t so interested in themselves financially and put funds into things more serious this country would be a lot better. Not just for we truck drivers but tourists as well it is a big country.

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