Jun 08, 2022

Inquiry into 92-year-old woman left outside emergency department in freezing cold

Staff at the Lyell McEwin Hospital made “insufficient attempts” to help 92-year-old Maureen Wortley when she was forced to wait outside the hospital last month in freezing conditions.

Pictures of Maureen Wortley were posted on social media by members of her family who were outraged at the lack of facilities available to waiting patients at Adelaide’s Lyell McEwin Hospital.

The great-grandmother had fallen over in her home and one of her daughters was left to drive her to hospital due to an ambulance shortage.

When they arrived at the hospital, they were shocked to learn those needing emergency treatment were waiting in an outdoor “carport” area with no heating, despite temperatures being below 12C.

Ms Wortley, who was wearing only a dressing gown, was not even offered a blanket.

On Monday, the South Australian government released a report acknowledging that Ms Wortley and others were left waiting outside the over-capacity emergency department for nearly two hours, The Adelaide Advertiser has reported.

The report found the incident was an “oversight” by the Northern Adelaide Local Health Service.

“Portable heating for the waiting patients and the proactive provision of blankets to them on that cold evening would, most likely, have prevented the distress that has been described,” wrote the report’s author, former Australian chief medical officer Professor Chris Baggoley.

“The situation was the result of an oversight by the LMHS, given that plans were in place to [RAT] test patients internally in the event of hot weather, but not in the event of cold weather.”

Prof Baggoley has spoken to Ms Wortley’s family and acknowledged she was “significantly affected by the cold that evening and that insufficient attempts were made to address those needs”.

The hospital has “recognised the oversight and taken steps to ensure it does not happen again”, Prof Baggoley said.

After The Advertiser published stories about the incident, the hospital changed its policies requiring patients to wait outside hospitals for rapid antigen tests (RATs).

When South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas announced a review of the incident, he called it a “substantial stuff up”.

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