A frail pensioner huddled in agony under blankets in the pouring rain outside his home with a broken ankle for more than three hours in a frantic morning that stretched the city’s emergency services to breaking point.
Paramedics and crews were called out to 21 separate incidents of residents falling in a manic three-hour period early yesterday morning as freezing overnight temperatures caused a huge surge in fall injuries.
Michael Wilczynski, 71, suffered multiple leg injuries after slipping on ice as he left his home in Carrick Knowe, ironically to check up on a neighbour, at around 9.30am. However Mr Wilczynski spent almost three-and-a-half hours on the pavement desperately waiting for ambulance crews after family members were advised not to move the retired civil servant, even as they made more than a dozen calls to emergency services.
In the meantime, kind hearted neighbours rallied to cover him with blankets and a tarpaulin sheet, while also pitching umbrellas to keep Mr Wilczynski dry in temperatures of around 3C, while his wife Patricia, 72, continued to call paramedics.
Mr Wilczynski’s daughter Sara Wilczynska, 34, even mananged to drive from work in Bilston to be by her father’s side and described the situation as “a disgrace”.
She added: “It is absolutely shocking, he was lying out there covered by blankets, umbrellas; we were having to bring him hot water bottles and cups of tea to keep him warm, but he had no pain relief for hours.”
“Instead, he was left to sit on the pavement in the cold, in the pouring rain, he could have caught hypothermia or anything – it is a terrible way to treat anyone, let alone someone who is in their seventies.”
Mr Wilczynski’s son Steven, 38, and daughter Sara Wilczynska, 34, rushed to the family home from work at opposite ends of the city to be by their father’s side before ambulance crews were in attendance.
Ms Wilczynska described the situation as “a disgrace,” adding she was worried for his safety after having no pain relief for hours.
She continued: “We could see he was in pain, he told us that, but there wasn’t much we could do because we were told not to move him or give him any kind of painkiller.”
Mr Wilczynski had initially been spotted on the ground by neighbours, who quickly alerted emergency services to his condition.
One resident on the street, who asked not to be named, said she was “hugely concerned” about leaving Mr Wilczynski in the “baltic” temperatures, adding: “At one point, there were about a dozen of us standing around him, trying to do our best to help, but we were getting conflicting advice from the people at the emergency services, at NHS 24 and the local medical centre.”
“Some of them said we should move him, but then others didn’t. We just didn’t know what to do and the ambulance crews seemed to be taking forever to arrive – it was just a shock.”
Mr Wilczynski was finally transported to the Royal Infirmary at around ten to one, where he was confirmed to have a badly broken ankle.
Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scottish Patients Association, said it showed ambulance services being “stretched to the limit,” adding: “Emergency services are constantly under pressure, particularly at this time of year when the weather makes going outdoors more dangerous.”
“Ambulance crews have to stay with patients in the accident and emergency department until they are signed over to staff at the hospitals, but with services struggling to cope with demand, all this does is take crews off the road.”
She continued: “There is an added risk of a vulnerable pensioner being exposed to cold temperatures and possibly contracting an infection he could then take in to the hospital, causing further problems.”
A Scottish Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “The service was experiencing an exceptionally high, out of the ordinary, level of demand in Edinburgh and across Scotland on Thursday, December 14 and we would like to apologise to the patient for the lengthy delay.
“All 999 calls are prioritised to ensure the sickest and most seriously injured patients, including those with immediately life-threatening conditions, are given the highest priority.
“We would ask members of the public to take care when out in icy conditions and only call 999 in genuine emergencies.”