| 20.09,19. 05:27 PM |
Elderly patient dies after being ramped at Flinders Medical Centre
Photo: The ambulance union says ramping has reached record levels. (Ambulance Employees Association)
An elderly patient who waited more than an hour for treatment while being ramped at Flinders Medical Centre has died, the ambulance union says.
The Ambulance Employees Association's Leah Watkins said the woman, in her 90s, was admitted to hospital with increasing pain.
Ms Watkins said the woman waited for more than an hour in the back of an ambulance before her condition deteriorated.
She was then admitted to the ward where she died a short time later.
"I want to pass on our most heartfelt condolences for the patient and to the family," Ms Watkins said.
"They should not have had to go through this — they should not have had to spend their last hour in the back of an ambulance while waiting to access a hospital.
"One of the most distressing parts is that the crews and the family experience in this scenario is that it's quite an undignified ending for someone to wait their last hour of life stuck on a ramp outside a hospital.
"We think this is a violation of human rights, we don't think it's appropriate for patients to be sitting on the ramp for extended periods of time outside hospitals — they are being blocked from being able to access emergency care in their time of need.
"The Government doesn't seem to be able to resolve the issue so we need an injection of funding and staffing to be able to increase our resources."
Ramping hits record levels
The death on Thursday night comes just days after the union and SA's Opposition revealed figures that showed ramping had reached record levels in August.
According to the figures, ambulances spent more than 2,000 hours ramped at Adelaide's public hospitals in August.
Ramping occurs when a patient cannot be admitted to hospital because the emergency department is at capacity.
Premier Steven Marshall said there was no excuse for the patient's death and the coroner would be investigating.
"Devastating news that a patient has died at the Flinders Medical Centre, our condolences to the victim's family," Mr Marshall said.
"This is a tragedy, it is devastating news, it shouldn't have occurred.
"My understanding is that the coroner is now going to undertake an investigation into this and we will wait to see what comes out of it."
Government focussed on reopening beds: Premier
Flinders Medical Centre reached "code white" status on Thursday afternoon.
"Code white" is the highest level rating and signifies all treatment rooms at the hospital's emergency department are being used.
Mr Marshall said the State Government was focussed on opening new beds at the Repatriation General Hospital — which the Liberal Party committed to revitalising during the 2018 election campaign — to ease stress on the major hospitals' emergency departments.
"But we are in the midst of a very serious flu season for an extended period this year and that has put additional stress and pressure onto our emergency departments," he said.
"It's one of the reasons why we have been accelerating the opening of beds on the Repat site."
Mr Marshall said Health Minister Stephen Wade had been unavailable to comment on ramping issues this week as he had been working on other "specific health issues" in the APY Lands, in the state's north.
Shadow Health Minister Chris Picton said the coroner should consider fast-tracking his investigation, along with nine other ramping-related deaths that were reported earlier this year.
However, he said the State Government did not have to wait for a coroner's report to respond to the incident.
"There's been warning after warning over the past year from doctors, from paramedics, from nurses, that the situation is getting out of control, that we are experiencing ramping that this state has never seen before and they've been met by inaction or cuts from this Government," Mr Picton said.
SA Health declined to comment as the matter is now expected to go to the coroner.
A spokesperson for the coroner said "the circumstances surrounding the death are the subject of investigation".