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Procedures cause for 11-hour delay: NSW Ambulance

NSW AMBULANCE and Northern NSW Local Health District have confirmed the 11-hour delay in getting a seriously ill woman to emergency surgery was partly due to their protocols.

Iluka woman Kerren Heilpern was transferred to three hospitals over 11 hours in early February after a brain aneurysm burst while she was at home.

Her family have questioned the wait time for ambulance transfers between hospitals and the need for local hospitals to confirm a diagnosis of her condition before she was taken to the Gold Coast for emergency surgery.

A spokesman for NSW Ambulance said there was a commitment to give patients timely access to paramedic care in medical emergencies and the service was apologetic for any lengthy response to a patient.

When NSW Ambulance received a triple zero (000) call in this instance, the closest available ambulance was sent to attend the patient under lights and siren. Following the on-scene medical assessment by paramedics, the patient was initially transported to Maclean Hospital.

A NSW Ambulance review determined the attending paramedics treated the patient in accordance with NSW Ambulance clinical protocols, and the primary hospital destination decision was consistent with established transport destination procedures.

A Northern NSW Local Health District spokesman confirmed decisions to refer patients for neurosurgery could not be made until a definite diagnosis was obtained using CT imaging.

He said Ms Heilpern remained under the care of medical staff before being taken to Grafton Base Hospital to undergo medical imaging, which revealed the patient required retrieval to the Gold Coast University Hospital, which is the nearest neurosurgical unit.

The spokesman said the Northern NSW Local Health District was in discussions with Gold Coast University Hospital to provide follow-up clinics for patients within the Clarence district, following discharge from the neurosurgery unit at Gold Coast University Hospital.

This month NSW Ambulance will implement a 24-hour roster operation at Maclean Ambulance Station, incorporating an additional seven paramedics for a total of 12 staff.



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