An elderly Tasmanian man who died of a head injury waited more than four hours at his home for an ambulance after being improperly triaged.
Alan Maurice Gray, 77, who had mobility issues, fell while inflating his tires at a gas station in Hobart on the afternoon of September 16, 2020.
He hit the back of his head and suffered bruises to his elbow and tailbone, but was able to drive home after being helped by a member of the public.
He called an ambulance at 7.54pm on the advice of a doctor after developing a headache.
Paramedics arrived at 12:09 a.m. and found Mr Gray, a retired botanist who lived alone, conscious and alert on the floor next to his deck chair.
He was taken to Royal Hobart Hospital where a CT scan revealed a large intracranial haemorrhage. Due to the extent of the bleeding, he was placed in hospice care and died two days later.
A coroner’s report, released on Tuesday, found “an error” was made by the Tasmanian ambulance officer who triaged Mr Gray’s call.
“(They) initially entered the case into the priority medical dispatch system as ‘>6 hours’, meaning the fall occurred more than six hours prior,” coroner Olivia McTaggart said. .
“This was not the case and the correct entry should have been ‘
“This would have had the effect of assigning the case a higher response priority.”
Ms McTaggart said she was unable to determine whether Mr Gray would have survived if he had been taken to hospital sooner.
“However, the delay meant he had no chance of recovery,” she said.
Ambulance staff called Mr. Gray at 9.20pm and received no response. The case was “not reclassified as a priority as it should have been”.
There were delays offloading patients at the Royal Hobart Hospital at the time, insufficient ambulance crews and a “generally high” workload in southern Tasmania.
The facility has been plagued for years with a bed block and ramp-up, in which patients may be kept in the back of ambulances because there is not enough hospital space.
Ambulance Tasmania has since improved education and follow-up measures relating to the dispatch system and introduced a recall procedure for its state operations centre.
Australian Associated Press