THE State Coroner has been asked to investigate the death of a Wendouree woman who suffered a heart attack after waiting almost seven hours for specialised medical transport.
Susan Moroney, who weighed in excess of 160 kilograms, died on October 31 after a Complex Patient Ambulance Vehicle (CPAV) required to get her to the Ballarat Base Hospital arrived long after the initial call for transport.
There are only three CPAV units in regional Victoria – at Bendigo, Geelong and Maffra.
Following a minor fall and a wait of five hours earlier this year, Mrs Moroney made a public call for a localised CPAV unit.
“I just think there is a population here in Ballarat that are overweight or obese that needs this equipment,” she said in September.
Labor’s health spokesman Wade Noonan yesterday asked the Coroner to investigate the matter.
“I have taken the extraordinary step of writing to the Coroner seeking an examination into the circumstances of Mrs Moroney’s death,” he said.
“I am concerned that the failure by Ambulance Victoria to locate an appropriate vehicle and equipment to transport Mrs Moroney to the Ballarat Base Hospital represents a systemic failure and transforms this tragic death into an avoidable death.”
The first call for transport for Mrs Moroney was made at 11am on October 31.
Just before 12pm, patient transport officers determined the need for a CPAV, which was called in from Bendigo.
Ambulance Employees Association secretary Steve McGhie said off-duty staff had to be called in, pushing the CPAV’s departure back to 3.40pm.
It arrived at Mrs Moroney’s home at 5.50pm and she went into cardiac arrest soon after.
MICA paramedics from Ballarat were called to assist, but efforts to revive her stopped at 6.40pm.
Mr McGhie said the death was a tragedy and said there should be a CPAV in all Victorian regions.
“I don’t blame the paramedics that arrived on the CPAV. They came in on their day off,” he said.
“If the vehicle and the staff were available straight away and she was able to be transported to the hospital, then maybe she would be alive today.”
Mr Noonan said the availability of specialised ambulances and trained staff to operate them was “completely inadequate” to cover regional Victoria.
“A woman has lost her life and we need to understand whether the hours she waited in pain for a specialised ambulance to arrive from Bendigo in any way contributed to her untimely death,” he said.
Ambulance Victoria Grampians regional manager Greg Leach said paramedics were saddened by the case and said that Mrs Moroney was provided with high levels of care.
“When someone calls us for help, we’d like to be able to send an ambulance immediately,” he said.
“It’s disappointing when we take too long to reach someone who needs our care... a complex vehicle was sent as soon as there was one available.”
Mr Leach said new lifting equipment, including additional stair chairs and patient lifting cushions, was now being rolled out across the state.
Ballarat West MP Sharon Knight said there was no doubt Ballarat needed a CPAV unit and said she would raise the issue in parliament.
“We can’t afford to leave a major population centre such as Ballarat exposed and vulnerable to the circumstances that occurred in Mrs Moroney’s case.”
Health Minister David Davis said the government was investing $151 million to boost ambulance services in Victoria.
“Any inadequacy of CPAV vehicles in regional Victoria is a direct result of the previous Labor government’s 11 years of mismanagement of ambulance services in Victoria.”