The health department is investigating why a Coorabell man in the process of having a stroke was told by a doctor at Byron Central Hospital there were no facilities to treat him there and no ambulance available to take him to the Gold Coast for urgent treatment.
Paul Rea told Echonetdaily that around 11 am on Monday March 27, at the first sign of stroke, his wife drove him straight to Byron Bay Central Hospital.
Mr Rea was experiencing loss of feeling and the use of his right leg.
But he says that when he arrived at the hospital ‘the attending doctor said they were not geared up to treat stroke patients and I needed to get to John Flynn hospital ASAP.’
‘The doctor said they could not arrange ambulance travel before mid-afternoon and he advised that we set off in my wife’s car. “And don’t stop for coffee,” he said.
Mr Rea says he was ‘clearly in worse shape when I got out of the car than when I got in.’
‘I was admitted to John Flynn’s stroke ward and later to rehab.
‘The admissions staff were ropeable that medical protocols had not been followed at Byron Hospital.
‘My stroke was still in progress and had I suffered far worse deterioration during the trip north, what would my wife have done? Sped up? Called for an ambulance? Pulled over and tried to flag down a passing motorist?
‘Ambulance care is regarded as essential in such cases.’
Mr Rea says that his treatment as a patient for two weeks at John Flynn was ‘excellent and I am now fully recovered.’
Sorry to have to add my story to the growing list of poor treatment at Byron. I do so in the hope that public reporting of such incidents may lead the NSW Government to adequately funding and resourcing our hospital,’ he said.
No ambulance record
Wayne Jones, chief executive of the Northern NSW Local Health District, told Echonetdaily the LHD was investigating the case and that ‘no further information can be provided prior to the completion of the investigation.’
A spokesperson for NSW Ambulance said only that there was ‘no record of a request for transfer’ for Mr Rea from the hospital.
External investigation demanded
But NSW shadow health minister Walt Secord has demanded the government launch an independent external investigation into ambulance staffing levels on the north coast and whether the new Byron Central Hospital is being properly resourced and staffed.
Mr Secord said he was ‘alarmed and disturbed’ by the growing list of recent patient failures at Byron Central Hospital and involving the NSW Ambulance Service on the north coast.
‘It is simply downright ludicrous that a NSW hospital was unable to treat a stroke victim.’
‘Serious questions need to be answered about whether Byron Central Hospital and the NSW Ambulance Service are being properly resourced on the north coast.
‘It seems like another day, another patient at Byron Central Hospital is unable to be properly treated and they had to be transferred to Queensland.’
‘Earlier this year, we saw the horrific incident where a woman with a bowel obstruction had to wait 13 hours because an ambulance was unavailable.’
‘There is little point in spending millions to build a brand new hospital, then fail to properly resource that hospital. It does not make sense.’
‘The drive from Coorabell to Byron Bay Central Hospital is 17 kilometres and from Byron Central Hospital to John Flynn Private Hospital is another 73 kilometres.
All up that is 90 kilometres– an incredible distance for someone having a stroke to travel,’ Mr Secord said.