A FISHERMAN struggled in the water for 15 minutes before dying after Ambulance NSW failed to notify nearby lifesavers, it has been revealed.
The Health Minister, Jillian Skinner, has ordered an immediate overhaul of the way Ambulance NSW deals with potential rescues after the death on Sunday was brought to her attention by Maroubra MP, Michael Daley.
The man and two friends had been fishing together at Little Bay when a large wave washed them off the rocks on Sunday.
Mr Daley said the 39-year-old Warrawee man struggled in the water for 15 minutes before losing consciousness and was eventually washed back onto the rocks.
He said a golfer saw him in the ocean and phoned Triple-0. It was only after 35 minutes that the helicopter arrived, Mr Daley said, despite lifesavers being on duty at Maroubra South and Maroubra beaches only one kilometre away. Randwick City lifesavers also could have been at the scene in five minutes and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was available.
Mrs Skinner said she had instructed the ambulance service that from now on any time a person was in the water they would immediately be designated a rescue, and NSW Police notified. Police would then decide which agency should respond.
On Wednesday Mrs Skinner told Fairfax Media she had directed the acting chief executive of the Ambulance Service of NSW to raise the new protocol with the chair of the State Rescue Board.
A spokeswoman for the NSW Ambulance service said a report of a person in the water on its own was not identified by NSW Ambulance as requiring rescue co-ordination. Both she and Mrs Skinner said they could not comment as a report was being prepared for the coroner.