The Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) has admitted that it failed to book an ambulance for a patient diagnosed with stroke before the treating doctor told his wife to drive him to a Queensland hospital.
The health district mounted an investigation into the incident at Byron Central Hospital after it was revealed in Echonetdaily in April.
But the stroke victim, Paul Rea of Coorabell, labelled the conclusions of the investigation a whitewash, saying it didn’t answer even basic questions, such as whether any attempt had been made to call an ambulance before his wife was told to drive him herself.
Mr Rea said he still had questions remaining unanswered. Echonetdaily forwarded these to NNSW LHD CEO Wayne Jones for response. We have published them below verbatim.
PR: Did the Byron Hospital Emergency Department request an ambulance to transfer Mr Rea?
WJ: It was established that Mr Rea was in a clinically stable condition and could travel to John Flynn Private Hospital by private transport.
PR: Is it Health Department policy to encourage inter-hospital transfers of stroke patients by private vehicle? If not, why was this done in his case?
WJ: It is not uncommon for clinicians to allow patients to travel privately between hospitals during their treatment, but it is not Northern NSW Local Health District policy to encourage inter-hospital transfers by private vehicle ahead of transport by ambulance.
PR: If a request for an ambulance was not made, why not?
WJ: NNSW LHD apologises to Mr Rea that an ambulance was not booked and the option of being transferred by ambulance was not provided to him.
Following an internal review of the incident, the prioritization of transfer by ambulance under inter-hospital patient transfer guidelines will be reinforced across the LHD.
PR: Is it the case that transfers to hospitals in Queensland have to be undertaken by Queensland ambulances?
WJ: When patients are transferred to Queensland hospitals for ongoing care the majority of these transfers are undertaken by the NSW Ambulance Service.
Mr Rea told Echonetdaily he was glad ‘Mr Jones has acknowledged this omission and has now apologised for it.’
But he has questioned some of the CEO’s responses.
‘What does Mr Jones mean by “the prioritisation of transfer by ambulance under inter-hospital patient transfer guidelines will be reinforced across the LHD”?’ he asked.
‘Does this gobbledygook mean that nothing changes? Or does he mean that stroke patients can now expect to be provided with ambulance transport?
‘Let’s hope it is the latter. I don’t want anyone else put at risk the way I was,’ Mr Rea said.
‘I don’t accept Mr Jones’ description of my stroke as “clinically stable” as I deteriorated rapidly once I left Byron Hospital.
‘The Stroke Foundation website confirms that every stroke should be treated as a medical emergency.
‘In my case an ambulance was not booked and the option of being transferred by ambulance to John Flynn was not provided.
‘Fortunately I made a full recovery but if nothing changes at Byron Hospital, the next patient may not be so lucky,’ Mr Rea said.