Lack of hospital staff lead to woman's death

A SENIOR emergency department doctor has conceded staffing levels at the Gold Coast University Hospital lead to a woman's death at the medical facility more than three years ago.

Renae Jean Mann, 43, died at the Gold Coast University Hospital on May 14, 2014, almost 24 hours after it's believed she took an overdose of prescription medication.

The final day of an inquest into her death was held at Southport Courthouse yesterday.

Ms Mann died after arriving at the hospital's emergency department following a suspected overdose of a mixture of drugs at home.

She was discharged from the emergency ward into the hospital's mental health assessment pod prior to her death, the inquest heard.

Renae Jean Mann, 43, died at the Gold Coast University Hospital on May 14, 2014, almost 24 hours after it’s believed she took an overdose of prescription medication. Picture: supplied.
Renae Jean Mann, 43, died at the Gold Coast University Hospital on May 14, 2014, almost 24 hours after it’s believed she took an overdose of prescription medication. Picture: supplied.

Deputy director of the hospital's emergency department Dr David Spain yesterday painted a damning picture of chaos at the GCUH soon after it moved to new premises, in late 2013.

He conceded the emergency was understaffed on the day Ms Mann died, saying "there were pressures on staff" that lead to the 43-year-old being "discharged prematurely" and not tested for her capacity to walk unassisted.
"The Gold Coast University Hospital moved from the old to the new location ... soon after the Global Financial Crisis, so the government was under fiscal restraint and they had to make some decisions ...," he said.

"We were doing 60,000 (patients) a year, the intention was that we would only provide (to) that many (patients) at the new facility and take the same resources to provide that.

"What we didn't know was that on day one there would be 30 per cent more people turning up and they turned up every day onwards and it grew from that point, such that the resourcing was stretched and it hadn't been able to be addressed by the time of Ms Mann's death."

Dr Spain earlier told the inquest: "I still don't know exactly why this lady died".

The inquest also heard from assistant nursing director Jo-Anne Timms that assistants in nursing and wardsmen had not been trained in basic life support at the time Ms Mann died.

Following Ms Mann's death, a full review of hospital procedure was undertaken and among several procedural changes, basic life support training was provided, the inquest heard.

A staff "bias" in relation to mental health patients was also identified and training was rolled-out to ensure staff looked for "physical problems" in these patients while they were in the pod, Dr Spain told the inquest.

The findings are expected to be handed down next year.

A Gold Coast Health spokeswoman yesterday said 211 staff worked at the previous GCUH emergency department but numbers increased to 250 in the financial year when the Gold Coast University Hospital opened.

There are now 340 staff working in the ward.



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