Queensland health officials admit they “should have done better” after a Brisbane mum died of a suspected heart attack hours after she tried to call an ambulance for help.
Cath Groom, 51, called paramedics about 10.30pm on Friday after she began experiencing chest pains, deemed to be a code 1 – the most severe type of case in which an ambulance should arrive within 15 minutes.
Instead, the single mother went to bed and died of a suspected heart attack overnight.
She was discovered by her son the next morning.
Queensland Health Minister Shannon Fentiman told A Current Affair’s Ally Langdon on Tuesday that Ms Groom’s death was “absolutely devastating”.
“Personally, I am devastated for her family, particularly her son, and it is unacceptable that it took so long to get an ambulance to her, and for that I am really, truly sorry,” Ms Fentiman said.
“It’s not good enough and there is a full review under way by the QAS (Queensland Ambulance Service) and the commissioner has made it clear that they will make sure they work with the family through that review.
“The overwhelming majority of Queenslanders who call an ambulance get an ambulance to their home and are seen by paramedics. Now, unfortunately, that did not happen in this case.”
The Health Minister was joined by QAS Commissioner Craig Emery, who admitted there were “no excuses” for Ms Groom’s death.
“We absolutely should have done better,” he said.
Mr Emery said the delay had been caused by a “surge in demand” for ambulance call-outs.
Additional staff from northern Queensland had already been deployed to Brisbane to assist in the four or five days preceding Friday night, he said.
While there was a “normal level of resourcing” available, the commissioner said staff were prioritising a number of code 1 calls on Friday night.
“We were experiencing a surge in demand … most people get their ambulance on average in 8.5 minutes, which is close to our target,” he said.
“That doesn’t make any difference for the family in this circumstance.”
Performance targets for paramedics in the state are to respond to 90 per cent of patients within 16.5 minutes.
A formal review into Ms Groom’s death is under way.
“We’ll do that with full transparency with the family and hope in some small way that helps them,” he said.
“The review will identify whether prioritising those other acuity patients was right or wrong.
“We should have responded to that lady much more quickly.”