‘Unlikely’ woman’s death at Busselton hospital could have been prevented, review finds

A review into the death of a woman who waited three hours for treatment at a WA country hospital has found there were delays in her treatment amid “unprecedented” demand, but that it was “unlikely” she could have been saved if she had been seen immediately.

The woman, aged in her 70s, was taken to Busselton Health Campus on April 19, where she died while still in the care of paramedics after her move into the emergency department had been delayed. 

WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the review found the woman’s cause of death was the result of a “rare and life-threatening” condition, specifically the rupture of a dissecting thoracic aortic aneurysm – a tear in the heart’s main artery. 

Ms Sanderson said the review had found it was “unlikely” her death could have been prevented if she had been handed over to the emergency department immediately. 

She said the woman had been taken to hospital after complaining of lower back pain and had been able to walk around while she waited, before her condition deteriorated rapidly. 

“This was unprecedented and could not have been predicted,” she said.

“Even if [she] had gone through quicker and been seen quicker it is unlikely that the outcome would have been different.”

An exterior shot of the entrance to Busselton Health Camups.
Ms Sanderson said the review found staff at Busselton Health Campus “did all they could” to respond to the increased demand at the hospital.(Supplied: Department of Health)

However, Ms Sanderson said the review also found the woman should have been seen sooner. 

The woman waited hours for treatment by hospital staff despite being triaged as “urgent”, which is supposed to have a maximum waiting time of 30 minutes.

“We do know that the patient did wait longer than they should have to be moved to a cubicle and undergo a full medical assessment,” she said.

“On the 19th of April, the emergency department was well staffed, however the staffing compliment was not enough to manage the increasing workload on that day.”

Ambulance presentations doubled

Ms Sanderson said the busy emergency department was a key factor in delays to the woman’s treatment, with almost double the normal number of ambulance presentations on that day.  

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