Ambulance ramping under spotlight after patient deaths

Laine Clark and Fraser Barton |

Queensland hospitals were forced to use pen and paper to update record during a computer outage.
Queensland hospitals were forced to use pen and paper to update record during a computer outage.

Emergency department bosses will meet Queensland Health Minister to address ambulance ramping after two people died in as many days.

Shannon Fentiman will on Friday bring together every ED head in the state’s health system to discuss ways to support them after it was revealed patients had waited almost 10 hours for a hospital bed.

Grandfather Wayne Irving, 67, died last week following a three-hour wait in an ambulance outside Ipswich hospital, west of Brisbane.

The next day Cath Groom was found dead in her Brisbane home by family on what would have been her 52nd birthday after paramedics failed to arrive the previous evening.

Mr Irving’s daughter Lauren Hansford broke down as she called for urgent health reforms standing outside Ipswich hospital on Thursday.

“(The health system) is failing us, it’s failing everyone around us and something needs to change,” she told reporters.

“When you put a loved one in an ambulance, you expect them to … get the treatment they deserve.”

Ms Fentiman said there was “no silver bullet” for ambulance ramping as the latest data for the longest waits outside Queensland hospitals was revealed.

Ramping data for May to September showed the longest time it took to offload a patient was nine hours and 54 minutes at Ipswich hospital in June.

Wait times at Logan hospital blew out to more than eight hours in June, July and September.

Lengthy delays were also experienced at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital, Redlands and Queensland Elizabeth II Hospital.

Shannon Fentiman
The government is doing everything it can to improve ambulance ramping, Shannon Fentiman says. (Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS)

The statewide median patient off stretcher time was 28 minutes in May, 27 from June-August and 26 minutes last month.

“I’m bringing together all the heads of emergency departments tomorrow just to look at what more we can be doing to support them,” Ms Fentiman said of the ramping issue.

“I know that our system is under immense pressure. 

“There’s no silver bullet but we’re throwing everything we can to improve the situation.”

The Queensland Ambulance Service is the country’s busiest, responding to 1.2 million incidents a year.

Opposition Leader David Crisafulli said the state health system was “sick”.

“There’s always an excuse, there’s always a reason. At some stage the state has to be honest about where they are at,” he said on Thursday.

“The Queensland Health crisis is real.”

Meanwhile, Ms Fentiman said a system outage that affected Queensland hospitals on Wednesday was caused by a firewall hardware issue.

Twenty-four hospitals were affected by the glitch.

Staff were unable to access patients’ digital records for hours after experiencing log-in issues with the integrated electronic medical record system.

Ms Fentiman said the issue was resolved on Wednesday afternoon and an inquiry, with assistance from the system’s external vendor, was under way.

“There’s been no risk to cybersecurity and no patient confidentiality has been impacted,” she said.

“And for the most part, hospitals were able to continue to provide that world-class care for Queenslanders.”

Ms Fentiman confirmed some specialist outpatient appointments were affected by the outage and five minor elective surgeries were rescheduled.