THE latest ambulance delay to hit South Tyneside left a frail pensioner lying in agony on a cold stone floor for almost four hours.
Henrietta Rowan, 82, who had just been discharged from hospital after more than two months, screamed for help after falling in the bathroom at her home in Avon Road, Hebburn.
She was half-dressed, incontinent and in severe pain, as her right hand was trapped under her body.
Her son, Allan Rowan, and a carer were fearful of moving her in case she had suffered a fracture.
Now Mrs Rowan and her family have hit out, after being forced to wait for several hours for an ambulance on Monday evening.
Ambulance officials apologised for the FOURTH 999 delay drama in South Tyneside in recent weeks, with North East Ambulance Service blaming an almost doubling in emergency calls.
Three ambulances were initially sent to the Hebburn pensioner’s home – but each one had to be diverted elsewhere.
Mrs Rowan, who has mobility and balance problems, said: “I thought I was going to die. I was shouting for my son.
“It was freezing cold on the stone floor, my right arm was trapped and it was very, very painful.
“I think it’s a damn disgrace to keep a patient waiting that long.
“It’s left me feeling vulnerable, in case I have another fall and need an ambulance again.”
Mr Rowan, 60, said: “My mother was incontinent after she fell in the bathroom and was highly distressed and embarrassed.
“I had done some work in the bathroom and had taken the floor covering up, so my mother was literally lying on the cold stone.
“When the ambulance eventually arrived, after almost four hours, I told them it was bang out of order and totally ridiculous that an old woman should be left on the floor for so long.”
Mrs Rowan was released from South Tyneside District Hospital after an X-ray found no broken bones, but had to be brought home by her son, as no ambulance was available for the return journey.
The pensioner had just spent five weeks in the district hospital and four weeks in Palmer Community Hospital, Jarrow, because of her mobility and balance issues.
A spokesman for North East Ambulance Service said: “We were called at 5.58pm on February 4, regarding a patient who had suffered a non-life-threatening shoulder injury in Hebburn.
“The call was triaged as a ‘Green 3’ – the least serious ambulance category.
“All calls to the 999 emergency service are prioritised, with life-threatening cases taking precedent.
“In the period following the initial call, three different vehicles had been sent to attend – but on each occasion were diverted en-route to more serious incidents.
“A crew attended the patient at 9.29pm and took her to South Tyne A&E.
“Ideally, we try to attend Green 3 calls within one hour, and we’re sorry that on this occasion, due to demand, we were unable to achieve that response.”