May 10, 2021

“Give her a Panadol”: Was grandmother’s death due to ambulance ramping?

Ambulance ramping

Mary Lillington was on her way to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in August 2017 after breaking her hip following a fall.

But after ramping outside the hospital, Mary’s ambulance diverted to the Mater Private Hospital, and it was this decision that her family believes caused her death.

Mary’s husband, Peter Lillington, 84, is now speaking out and asking questions, despite the fact that two coronial inquiries into the matter found no further action was needed.

According to The Courier-Mail, Peter believes the hospital did not know Mary had diabetes, and fed her sugary foods, which caused her to fall into a coma.

Despite concerns about Mary’s deteriorating condition, doctors at the Mater did not move her into an intensive care unit.

Mary’s daughter, Karen Boys, told The Courier-Mail she wonders if her mother would be alive if she had been admitted to the Prince Alexandra Hospital.

“Stories such as ours are far too common,” she said, calling for Queensland’s hospital system to be investigated.

Serious issue

Though this incident occurred four years ago, access to emergency hospital treatment and ramping remains a serious problem in Queensland hospitals.

State Health Minister Yvette D’Ath told The Courier-Mail there has been “unprecedented” demand for public health services, but the “vast majority” of urgent patients are seen within two minutes.

However, opposition Health Spokeswoman Ros Bates said standards of the state’s health system were slipping.

Ramped ambulances “common”: AMA Queensland

A spokesperson for AMA Queensland directed HelloCare to its statement, which claims the state’s public hospitals are at crisis point, with “clogged” emergency departments, a shortage of beds and burnt-out staff leaving the sector in droves.

The spokesperson for the Australian College for Emergency Medicine, Dr Kim Hansen, said it was “the worst emergency” doctors had seen.

“There’s been a surge in patients this year – most hospitals are seeing record numbers and they just don’t have the staff or beds to cope,” Dr Hansen said.

“The system was already at full capacity and now it is swamped.”

Dr Hansen said there were common reports of patients stuck for hours in waiting rooms and ramped ambulances.

“Emergency doctors and nurses are happy to work hard to see all the patients, but they can’t do it well if they have to practice ‘waiting room medicine’.

“It’s awful, like putting a Band-Aid on a stab wound.”

“Being unable to properly treat the flood of patients is incredibly stressful and more Emergency doctors are choosing to work fewer hours or quit altogether,” Hansen said.

AMA Queensland president Professor Chris Perry said hundreds more hospital beds are needed, as well as more hospital staff in intensive care, mental health and general wards.

“We… have hospital beds occupied by people waiting to get Home Care or disability packages or into aged care,” he said.

“Clearly, we have far too few hospital beds to cater for the state’s booming population,” Perry said.

“Ramping horror stories”

Queensland Shadow Health Minister, Ros Bates, told HelloCare, “Ambulance ramping is back in Queensland.”

The state government is “losing control of healthcare”, she said, and Queenslanders are “losing access to vital services”.  

Bates believes the solution lies in better data about the availability of resources in stretched Queensland hospitals, better resourcing for triaging in emergency departments, and investing in better resourced beds.

“The Opposition has been inundated with ramping horror stories from honest Queenslanders,” Bates said.

“Queenslanders simply want a healthcare system they can rely on.

“Our hard working frontline doctors and nurses are stretched to the limit and are doing a professional job under immense stress.

“I’m a nurse. I know what they’re going through and can’t thank them enough for their dedication to helping others.”

South Australia’s ramping crisis

In recent weeks, HelloCare has also written about ramping in South Australian hospitals, which is now at the highest levels since the start of the pandemic.

Data released by SA Ambulance Service shows patients and crews spent 2,281 hours ramped in May, according to the ABC. 

Ramped time fell to 493 hours in April 2020 during the lockdown, but has crept back up to the highest levels since the pandemic began. Last week a statement from the ANMF (SA Branch) said Adelaide’s “dangerously over-stretched hospital system” continues to set “disastrous records”.

“At the RAH alone there were 64 people waiting for a bed… this morning, 16 for more than 24 hours. This is simply unacceptable.

“The waiting times are a very real danger to the lives of patients. The crushing burden on our hospital system is resulting in missed and delayed care,” Dabars said.

“People’s lives and wellbeing are being put at risk every day.”

The South Australian government has promised more ambulance staff by early next year as it addresses industrial action taken by ambulance officers in which they stopped charging patients for ambulances when the appropriate care was not delivered within the recommended timeframe or if ambulances were ramped.

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  1. Check yourwhuch article. You refer to RPA which is in Sydney. II think you mean PA which is in Brisbane.

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