Vic hospital stretcher death prompts probe | The Canberra Times | Canberra, ACT

2022-12-08 12:01:11 By : Ms. Jenny Ni

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Premier Daniel Andrews has lamented "extraordinary" ongoing pressure on Victoria's health system after a 72 year old man died while waiting for hours on an ambulance stretcher at a regional hospital.

The man from Paynesville was transferred by ambulance to Bairnsdale Regional Health Service in the state's East Gippsland region on Monday following a fall at home.

With no beds available and three other ambulances already waiting, the man remained in paramedics' care on a stretcher inside the hospital for about three and a half hours before he was brought into the emergency department.

He went into cardiac arrest in a bathroom about 3.30pm and died after 45 minutes of attempted resuscitation.

A Bairnsdale Regional Health Service spokesperson said 12 doctors and nurses were on sick leave on Monday, accounting for about 18 per cent of the hospital's rostered clinical staff.

Half of those who called in sick had COVID-19.

The hospital was able to cover all but two of the unexpected absences, the spokesperson said, ensuring the emergency department was fully staffed.

But the shortage in the acute wards meant BRHS had to close five beds to maintain legislated patient safety ratios.

"Combined with high demand in our partner hospitals across the state, this contributed to a patient flow blockage where we were unable to transfer patients out of the emergency department to appropriate beds at BRHS or hospitals elsewhere," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"We express our deepest sympathy to (the man's) family and friends."

BRHS and Ambulance Victoria are investigating the circumstances of the death.

It's the latest fatal episode linked to Victoria's ailing health system, with at least 12 people dying since October after calls for an ambulance to the state's triple-zero service went unanswered or were not picked up quickly enough.

Victorian Ambulance Union General Secretary Danny Hill said the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated, not created, problems within the system, and the lack of alternative health services in the bush often makes residents feel like their only option is to call triple zero.

"The system seems to focus on the only two options which is ambulance and emergency department," he told AAP on Wednesday.

"Opening up access and improving access to 24-hour GPs, aged care in-reach ... is really where the attention should be focused. Not just on putting on more ambulances and more ED beds."

While offering his condolences to the man's family, Mr Andrews said 2000 hospital staff across the state are off work because of COVID-19 on any given day.

"They're sick or they're having to care for somebody who is sick. That's put extraordinary pressure on our system," he said at Kyneton.

"Every part of Victoria has seen a boost in health funding, a boost in support for our nurses, our ambos, our doctors. You can't generate health professionals in a matter of weeks and months."

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the government could not evade responsibility for the state of the health system.

"It's on their watch. They've had years to prepare for this circumstance," he said.

Victorian health workers such as doctors, nurses and paramedics can be exempted from COVID-19 isolation rules for close contacts if they are asymptomatic and return daily negative rapid antigen tests.

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