WA ambulance crisis: Elderly Bellevue man another death in WA ambulance crisis

Headshot of Kellie Balaam
Kellie BalaamThe West Australian
St John WA CEO Michelle Fyfe.
Camera IconSt John WA CEO Michelle Fyfe. Credit: Jackson Flindell/The West Australian

Hours after Perth grandmother Georgina Wild died alone on her couch waiting for an ambulance to arrive, an elderly man also passed away from a suspected heart attack as WA’s ambulance crisis continues.

The Bellevue man in his 80s called triple-0 at 8:15am on Sunday complaining of abdominal pain.

He was categorised as a priority three patient, meaning paramedics should have arrived within an hour.

But it wasn’t until two hours later at 10:08am that St John WA called the man to conduct a welfare check.

By that time the man was suffering chest pains and was upgraded to a priority one, Nine News reported.

When an ambulance finally arrived five minutes later, he was in the middle of what would prove a fatal heart attack and he died after arriving at hospital.

St John WA confirmed to The West Australian that staff had been in contact with the man’s family.

“A formal investigation has been commenced and the family have been invited to be involved in this process,” a St John spokesperson said.

This latest incident comes as St John WA CEO Michelle Fyfe is under siege for not activating critical worker protocols allowing paramedics exposed to COVID but who tested negative to RATs to continue working at the time Perth grandmother Georgina Wild called for help.

Ms Wild’s tragic death has sparked urgent action to be taken and two independent inquires have been launched as her family demand answers.

Ms Wild dialled triple-0 at about 2.30am on Sunday complaining of chest pains.

Two-and-a-half hours later an ambulance arrived but they were too late.

Ms Wild had died on her couch with the television still on.

Senior police and WA Health officials will now be embedded in St John to “ensure the full weight of government and the full resourcing of government” will assist in the availability of ambulance services.

The announcement comes after two days of Premier Mark McGowan and Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson criticising the not-for-profit for refusing to activate critical worker protocols or requesting firefighters be made available to drive ambulances.

Mr McGowan on Tuesday announced firefighters would be called in to drive ambulances to address the severe shortage of paramedics across the State.

Mr McGowan said it was “clearly not acceptable” for West Australians in emergency situations to be waiting hours for ambulances to arrive when the benchmark response time was less than 15 minutes.

“We have passed on our concerns to St John about that and obviously there’s a range of meetings happening between the Government and St John in relation to this,” he said.

Earlier this year a woman in her 70s who had been suffering from back pain died at Busselton Hospital after being transported by St John.

She is believed to have been triaged “urgent” upon arrival but had not been treated 3 1/2 hours later when she rapidly deteriorated and died of a suspected heart attack.

Among the many unanswered questions in the case is whether the woman was still in the care of paramedics when she died and whether those paramedics were degree-qualified or volunteers. A seven-person inquiry has been set up by the Health Minister to get to the bottom of the tragedy.

That was followed by the death of a woman from a heart attack in Geraldton while she was waiting for an ambulance that took more than 30 minutes to arrive despite the base being nearby.

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