Today’s question relates to calling an ambulance to a sporting field.

How would a sporting association stand if the strictly informed their members at sports fields that only the club/control room could call an ambulance, and as a result there was a significant delay in phoning triple zero for an unconscious player. I am referring to recreational Saturday afternoon sport but think of the poor outcome with the professional cricketer a few years back and alleged delay/confusion in calling triple zero.

The association is obviously trying to reduce frivolous calls for sprained ankles but some members are concerned of ramifications of this ruling. It is on public sporting fields.

A ‘sporting association’ that says ‘only the club/control room could call an ambulance’ is overreaching itself, because it’s clearly not true.  Anyone with a phone can call an ambulance and what’s the sporting association going to do if someone does call the ambulance?

One might expect that the club has an emergency plan, which says something like ‘In the event of an emergency, call the onsite first aid people and they will call an ambulance if required’ or some such thing.  There is value in making sure there is coordination and for example that grounds people know that there’s been an injury and that an ambulance is expected in order to clear the way, stop games if necessary and take other action.  The control room wants to know what’s going on so it does make sense to say ‘we’ll call an ambulance’ but, at the end of the day, they can’t stop anyone calling an ambulance if they think they should.

As for ‘delay/confusion’ there can be both if people aren’t sure if an ambulance has been called or there are multiple calls for the same injury (though hopefully a modern ambulance service can cope with and identify duplication).

The question was ‘How would a sporting association stand …’ I suppose the question is would they be liable if there was some delay.  I suppose the argument could be made if a person did follow the emergency plan and it wasn’t acted on in the control room. Imagine a person has collapsed, someone starts CPR and in accordance with the direction, someone else runs to the control room and asks them to call an ambulance and they simply fail to do so, but no-one else rings triple zero because they think that’s been attended to.  That would certainly look ‘bad’ and if it could be proved that the delay made the outcome worse there could be some liability.

But assuming people aren’t idiots, it does make sense to ask for calls to be made from a single point so that the arrival of the ambulance, as well as safety on the field, can be managed and coordinated.  Having an ambulance turn up at a gate that is locked because the people with the key didn’t know it was coming is not effective.  So the edict seems quite reasonable but having issued it, there has to be procedures in place to make sure it is effective, that is that someone does call triple zero or dispatch the on field medics, and the person with the key does unlock the gate.

But at the end of the day, anyone with a phone can call triple zero if they think they need to.