> A grieving family says South Australia’s health system is broken after man’s death while waiting for ambulance

A grieving family says South Australia’s health system is broken after man’s death while waiting for ambulance

The family of a South Australian man who died while waiting for an ambulance on Monday night says the state’s health system is ‘broken’.

The 47-year-old father of two, Andrew, died from cardiac arrest on Monday evening in a Plympton car park, where he had pulled over and called an ambulance after experiencing chest pain.

At the request of the family, the ABC has decided to not publish a picture of him or use his last name. 

His family remembers Andrew as a “much-loved” partner, friend, family man and colleague. 

Nathan Hutchison, the brother of Andrew’s partner, read a statement on her behalf. 

“My partner Andrew was my soul mate and loving father to our children, my heart has been torn in two and I feel broken,” the statement said.

man standing in vest with checkered shirt and glasses
Nathan Hutchison says the health system needs to be fixed. (ABC News )

“He’s going to be deeply missed, but will always be remembered and very much loved.

“We are devastated he’s been taken so soon.”

Mr Hutchison said that the system needed to be fixed. 

“It’s just devastating for us,” he said. 

“It’s very hard to put it in words, clearly there’s a system that’s broken and needs to be fixed.

A divided road with palm trees in the median strip, along with directional signs. Only one car is visible and its parked
The man suffering chest pain called triple-0 after pulling over on Anzac Highway at Plympton. (ABC News: Evelyn Manfield )

“It’s tearing up my family. Fix the system.

“We do appreciate the work the first responders did when they arrived, and the community members did when they were there.”

Central Adelaide Local Health Network chief executive Lesley Dwyer described the “awful” incident as “an absolutely tragic outcome” and said a full investigation would take place.

TAFE SA chief executive David Coltman said Andrew had been a well-loved member of staff.

“[He] was a highly regarded manager at TAFE SA and we are deeply saddened by his sudden passing,” he said.

“TAFE SA is providing support to [his] colleagues during this difficult time and we extend our heartfelt condolences to [his] family.”

A woman with short brown hair wearing a beige scarf and a black top
Lesley Dwyer says discharging NDIS and aged care patients to free up hospital beds remains a priority.(ABC News)

Acting Health Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the man’s death was “horrific” and said he would also want his elderly father to call him if he had a medical episode.

“I’ve got an elderly father and I say to him, ‘if something happens, call an ambulance and call me’,” he said.

“But that’s not the solution you’d expect in a first-world country.

“In a first-world country, we expect an ambulance to come on time when it’s [a] life-threatening situation.”

A man in a suit standing behind microphones with a road overpass behind him
Tom Koutsantonis urges the public to still call triple-0 in an emergency. (ABC News: Shari Hams)

Mr Koutsantonis said there had been a “whole-of-government” approach to address the health crisis, which included hiring more doctors and nurses, opening private beds, and moving aged care and NDIS patients out of hospital and into care. 

“You gotta have faith. We still want people calling triple-0,” he said. 

“In three months we’ve done a lot but in three months you can’t fix it.

“Right now there’s no-one in South Australia who’s thinking about this in political terms, they are thinking about in terms of ‘if I call an ambulance will it come in time to save my father, my mother, my child?'”

‘Extreme pressure’

Ms Dwyer said the health system was “under extreme pressure on Monday afternoon with large numbers of triple-0 calls.”

“The hospitals themselves had come off a weekend where we’d been extremely busy,” she told ABC Radio Adelaide.

A white hospital building with blue and green windows, with green trees in front of it
Ambulance crews were ramped at the Royal Adelaide Hospital for three hours on Monday, the union says.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

“And so you had two of the major metropolitan hospitals, being Flinders and the Royal Adelaide, that were really struggling to get people into the emergency department in a timely way to free up ambulances.”

SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo said he was unsure what a government inquiry would achieve “because we all know where it’s going wrong”.

“The system is broken and more people are likely to die unless something happens,” he said.

Mr Pangallo said Andrew’s death was a “tragedy, and most likely was an avoidable one”.

“We’re likely to see instances like this again,” he said.

“Waiting times have blown out to unacceptable levels.”

A man sitting behind a microphone points. There is a bottle of water next to him and a name tag
Frank Pangallo wrote to Health Minister Chris Picton last week about a different patient.(ABC News: Lincoln Rothall)

Mr Pangallo said he wrote to Health Minister Chris Picton last week about a different patient who had waited two hours for an ambulance after suffering a heart attack.

“There was another tragedy that was averted,” he said.

Mr Pangallo said his office had been told by a member of the public yesterday that a taxi had been dispatched when a triple-0 call was made.

“A family member had called for an ambulance and it wasn’t considered a high priority so a taxi was dispatched,” he said.

“I’ve heard of this happening previously as well.”

Plan alternative options, says union

SA Ambulance Employees Association secretary Leah Watkins said yesterday that South Australians should consider planning alternative options in the event of lengthy ambulance delays.

SA Ambulance Employees Association secretary Leah Watkins.
Leah Watkins says South Australians should prepare a plan for what to do in the event of a lengthy ambulance delay.(ABC News)

“In the vast majority, people are calling triple-0 because they’re in a point of crisis and they have no other option and they should still do that if they do feel the need,” she said.

“But the ambulance service and the health system is completely overwhelmed at the moment and so if they are concerned that there is going to be a delay for them, to get help early.

“If you’re home alone, call a neighbour or a friend just to let them know what’s going on so that there’s perhaps someone that could come over and wait with you or someone that can drive you to hospital yourself.

Lesley Dwyer said while “there was nothing wrong” with Ms Watkins’ advice, “people should not be frightened of ringing” triple-0, and it should be the “first port of call” in an emergency.

“We’d certainly not advocate people hopping in a car or a taxi if they thought they had a life-threatening condition or one that was going to deteriorate on the way,” she said.

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