Old elevators get shafted
CONCERNS over access for emergency services when the need arises has led Jan Edwards to seek answers to what is being done to ensure peoples safely on the Capricorn Coast where there is a mix of both old and new homes, units and businesses.
Jan said she met with a group of friends and their discussion turned to the subject of caring for invalid husbands, some of whom were so incapacitated that on occasion the Ambulance had to be called to render assistance.
“One of the ladies had a traumatic experience and said that in some instances, the paramedics had to arrange transport to hospital and while some could be transported via wheelchair, others with back or spinal injuries didn’t have that option and were reliant on a stretcher,” Ms Edwards said.
“Her husband who has a spinal injury, needed to be transported which was fine, until on entering the lift, the stretcher was unable to fit. It took 5 strong men who then had to position the stretcher diagonally in the lift. They were on the fourth floor.
“This raised a lot of questions knowing that not all buildings were designed with all ability access and workplace health and safety in mind, leaving little, if any room to get a stretcher in the case of an emergency.
“There are a lot of older buildings on the Capricorn Coast that were not built to today’s standards.”
Ms Edwards said when her husband was alive, he was in a wheelchair and when they looked for suitable low set accommodation, they found many buildings had very narrow hallways, sharp angles and inappropriate doors that just wouldn’t suit his needs.
“It brings me back to what is being done to ensure compliance for workplace and safety regulations with any building whether that be a new apartment building or business or an established building that has been in place for years,” she said.
“I am curious to find out if there is a prescribed size lift which all apartment blocks must comply with because if an emergency happens, it is too late to moan about not purchasing a bigger elevator due to the increased price.
“I would imagine occupational health and safety would demand that the lift accommodates any situation which might arise. I’m very keen to know exactly what is being done to ensure compliance for everyone’s safety.”
Yeppoon Ambulance Officer in Charge Jason Thompson said there are certainly times when access to patients can be challenging but fortunately modern technology has made the world of difference.
“Not all, but most of the elevators in the older multi-unit accommodations are generally fitted with a panel door at the back of the lift to allow for extra space,” Mr Thompson said.
“The newer accommodations have had to build with strict compliance requirements to cater to all ability access.
“For units and places without elevators, we have a stair chair which is a portable device about the same size as a wheelchair that is fitted with tracks on the back to roll down stairs.
“Increased occurrence of obesity can be problematic, so much so that our newer stretchers
are now able to accommodate larger weights.”
Mr Thompson said on the Capricorn Coast many homes are built on hills, cliffs and beachfronts making access challenging at times.
“When we do come up with a challenging access issue, we are able to call on SES volunteers and the Fire service to assist with winches, and additional people to assist,” he said.
“One of our biggest challenges is in the instance of cardiac arrest when a person is unconscious, where possible we always try to revive before transporting people and have medical methods of doing so.
“If people are concerned about access for their loved ones in the case of an emergency, we are always happy to talk to them and offer advice.”
A Livingstone Council spokesperson said Council does not have its own building policies. However, where Council is engaged as the Building Certifier it would ensure compliance with the National Construction Code which includes the following two Australian Building Standards that relate to access and facilities for persons with disabilities; Australian Standard 1428, Part1 (2001) Design for access and mobility – General requirements for access – New building work and also Australian Standard 1735 Part 12 (1999) Lifts, Escalators, and Moving Walks – Facilities for persons with disabilities.