St John WA took nearly 45 minutes to get paid paramedics to a man who collapsed and eventually died on a beach outside Albany because both of its usual crews were tied up with Royal Flying Doctor Service transfers at the time. The death — the second in regional WA involving a delayed ambulance response in just over a week — comes as The West Australian can reveal St John has introduced a new policy in the South West preventing non-urgent hospital transfers in instances where Bunbury, Busselton or Collie would be left without cover. The latest death, a man aged in his 60s, occurred near Goode Beach around 9pm on Monday, October 16. A triple-zero call shortly after he collapsed came at a time when both St John’s Albany ambulances were shuttling non-critical patients to the airstrip for RFDS transfers. With no one immediately on hand to dispatch, St John was forced to put out a call for off-duty paramedics. A pair of St John volunteers — who are limited in the medical care they can provide — were the first to respond and arrived on site 33 minutes after the triple zero call was made. It took another 11 minutes — 44 minutes in total — for a fully-trained career paramedic to join them. Goode Beach is around 25 minutes from St John’s Albany sub-centre under normal road conditions, but the trip is likely quicker for an ambulance driving under lights and sirens. By the time paramedics arrived no more could be done to save the man, who had gone into cardiac arrest, and he was declared dead at the scene. Non-urgent patient transfers are a major source of revenue for St John, generating more than $100 million for the not-for-profit in 2021-22. A parliamentary inquiry into the provision of ambulance services in WA last year found that the use of emergency crews to conduct non-urgent patient transfers risked diminishing capacity to respond to call-outs. St John WA did not specifically address a question about whether both transfers at the time of the Albany death needed to occur simultaneously. “St John WA extends its deepest sympathies to the family involved in this case,” a St John spokeswoman said. “Patient movements are determined in collaboration with clinicians and partner agencies to ensure patients are transferred in line with clinical care required, in the quickest time possible, and that resources are efficiently deployed. “There is no further information related to this case which St John WA can provide. “The only proven routine intervention for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is effective cardiopulmonary resuscitation and early defibrillation, ideally within the first few minutes. The case is being reviewed.” A spokeswoman for WA Country Health Service said while the agency initiated the transfers, it was up to St John to liaise with RFDS around timings. “The State Government funds 9.5 FTE of paid paramedics in Albany and St John WA have autonomy of resource rostering,’ a WACHS spokeswoman said. The Albany death is the second in regional WA in the space of just over a week that St John is investigating after delays in deploying an ambulance. The first — as revealed by The West Australian — involved 45-year-old Australind man Jake Rudd whose potentially preventable death following a bee sting prompted a distraught paramedic to speak out about the lack of ambulance cover in regional WA. In that instance, the single ambulance assigned to the Australind region was unavailable — although St John has not said why — forcing the organisation to instead dispatch two crews from Bunbury, the first of which arrived at the scene 19 minutes later. In the wake of Mr Rudd’s death, the West Australian can also reveal St John has implemented a new policy for the South West region requiring ambulances not to embark on non-emergency hospital transfers if it means leaving Bunbury, Busselton or Collie without at least one crew that is not already assigned to a job. The policy states that where a transfer would leave a sub-centre with no available crews, “town cover” must be arranged either by shifting resources between Bunbury, Australind, Collie and Busselton or by calling in off-duty paramedics. “During periods of high workload or low resourcing, holding (non-urgent hospital transfer) jobs should be considered,” the policy states. If the requested transfer is more than two hours away, the policy states crews from Pinjarra or Dawesville can be utilised if available. St John did not address questions about why a policy preventing South West towns from being left without ambulance cover was not already in place, and whether the change had been prompted by Mr Rudd’s death.