Queensland health authorities have admitted “obviously we should have done better” after a Brisbane mother suffering chest pains died after an ambulance failed to respond to her pleas for help.
Cath Groom died, presumably of heart disease, at her home in Forest Lake. Her teenage son made the horrific discovery on Saturday morning – the day she was supposed to celebrate her 52nd birthday.
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She had waited more than 90 minutes for an ambulance before canceling the request when it didn’t show up.
Queensland Ambulance Service Commissioner Craig Emery admitted more should have been done to get her to hospital.
“Under the circumstances, we obviously should have done better,” he told 7NEWS.
Groom made her first triple-0 call at around 10.30pm on Friday, complaining of chest pains, but despite the job being classified as priority category 1, no ambulance arrived.
Relatives received a call from a QAS clinician 50 minutes after the initial call to check on the sick woman’s condition, but an ambulance was still not available.
When the groom was feeling a little better around midnight, the family’s request for an ambulance was canceled.
The next morning, the groom’s lifeless body was discovered.
The reason given for the ambulance’s delay was initially high demand on Friday evening.
“Family members should never have been in the situation (having to cancel the ambulance),” Emery said.
“This was a decision that should not have been made because we should have arrived much earlier.”
Emery added: “We should have responded to this patient much more quickly. Ten to 15 minutes would be a reasonable response time.”
In a statement to 7NEWS, Groom’s sister said the Queensland Ambulance Service had “failed my family”.
The death came just days after grandfather Wayne Irving died after waiting for three hours in the back of an ambulance at Ipswich Hospital.
It is believed that Irving suffered a fatal heart attack while being transferred from a stretcher to a bed.
Modernizations have already been announced: The hospital will receive 12 additional beds in the short-term emergency department.
The hospital is also expanding with 24 new acute care beds to improve patient flow.
Ambulance rolls up
The Australian Medical Association released a sobering report on ambulance deployment just a day before Groom’s death, saying the problem had reached “unforeseen proportions”.
Queensland has set a target of transferring 90 per cent of patients from ambulance to emergency room within 30 minutes, but AMA figures show only 58.7 per cent of cases meet or exceed that mark.
With health systems across the country under strain, AMA President Steve Robson said change is needed.
“Behind every number and every statistic is the harrowing personal story of a patient who had to wait far too long to be taken by ambulance to the emergency room,” Robson said.
“This issue continues to dominate the headlines every day. Patients, doctors, paramedics and hospital staff all deserve decisive action from governments to tackle emergency room surgeries, emergency room overcrowding and hospital congestion.”
Two clinical investigations into the deaths of Groom and Irving are currently underway.