NSW Ambulance responds to patient waiting 10 hours
THE Northern NSW Local Health District has apologised to a patient forced to wait 13 hours for a transfer from Byron Central Hospital for treatment of an obstructed bowel.
Ocean Shores woman Sue Harrison called an Ambulance about 9.30pm on Sunday January 22 after suffering with extreme pain and vomiting, caused by a twisted bowel.
Ms Harrison was rushed to Byron, where the Health District confirmed the 65-year-old received immediate triage and a doctor determined she needed transfer to a hospital with a surgical suite.
Ms Harrison was given morphine for the painful condition and then waited 13 hours for transfer to John Flynn Hospital where, if her conditioned worsened, she could be given emergency surgery.
Ms Harrison complained of the long wait to local MPs and said she was shocked "there was only two nurses and one doctor on duty" at Byron Central Hospital that night.
"There was no ward secretary, so the poor doctor was having to organise which hospital I would go to and call for an ambulance, which blew my mind," Ms Harrison said.
"To have a doctor having to be on the phone arranging transport is a total waste of personnel and is actually dangerous, it's a perfect storm waiting to happen.
"I told the nurses I would write letters to the ministers and they said: 'do it, we've been asking and asking for more staff and they don't believe that we're understaffed'."
Calls for higher levels of staffing and a surgical suite to be installed at Byron were echoed by North Coast MP Walt Secord, who also apologised to Ms Harrison over the incident.
"This incident is shocking. The patient waited 13 hours and then resorted to private health insurance at John Flynn Hospital in Queensland because there were no surgical suites at Byron," Mr Secord said.
But Health District's chief executive Wayne Jones said an internal review concluded staffing levels were appropriate that night.
Seven patients attending the Emergency Department, including Ms Harrison, were triaged and treated within clinical guidelines.
"Northern NSW Local Health District apologises to Ms Harrison for the lengthy delay she experienced at Byron Central Hospital waiting for an inter hospital transfer.
"Northern NSW LHD works closely with NSW Ambulance to provide the best possible outcomes to patients who need our care.
"We will ensure the timelines of inter-hospital transfers are addressed as a priority."
NSW Ambulance confirmed on January 23 it was "extremely busy" attending triple zero calls as well as inter hospital transfers.
Between 12.30am and 5am, Byron booked three transfers, and of those two were booked as urgent and undertaken within requested time-frames.
"The third transfer was booked as less urgent. At all times this patient was in the care of medical professionals at the hospital until an ambulance resource became available to undertake the transfer.
"Patients who are suffering from a life threatening medical emergency can expect the quickest response."
Mr Secord accused the State Government of "finger-pointing" between the Health District and NSW Ambulance.
"Patients just want to be reassured that when they rush into emergency departments with a condition like a bowel obstruction that they receive immediate treatment.
"They do not want to hear excuses or blame shifting.
"It is absolutely unacceptable to have to wait for 13 hours in an emergency department - and waiting 10 hours for a patient transfer is unforgiveable."