Waiting is hard… especially if you die after waiting four hours in an ambulance outside the hospital

A MAN died after spending more than four hours in an ambulance awaiting admission to a hospital, in the first confirmed death relating to the practice of “ramping”.

Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail under Right to Information laws show that the man was admitted to Nambour Hospital’s emergency department only after he “deteriorated and he became unconscious”.

On the night he died the hospital’s emergency department was “under extreme capacity”, the documents show. Ambulances were forced to “ramp”  queue with patients on board.

The report into the man’s death shows handwritten notes indicating he was in the care of Queensland Ambulance Service from 6.20pm before being “brought directly to resus (resuscitation) bay” at 10.30pm in May 2010.

The man had been diagnosed as category three or “urgent” after complaining of abdominal pains. Category three patients are supposed to be treated within 30 minutes.

Later there were “apologies for ramping and circumstances of death” along with “condolences to family”.

The revelations came as Health Minister Lawrence Springborg announced a major shakeup of the state’s hospitals from January 1.

Hospitals will be banned from diverting ambulances to other facilities when emergency departments are full.

Emergency patients will also increasingly be transferred from ramped, or queued, ambulances into specialised hospital waiting rooms overseen by new senior nurses, helping mitigate the risks of poor supervision.

Mr Springborg pledged to adopt all 15 recommendations of the Metropolitan Emergency Department Access Initiative, headed by emergency physician David Rosengren, who warned the performance of state emergency departments had rapidly declined.

The union representing ambulance officers said ramping was still a major problem but the new measures to combat ramping announced by the State Government yesterday would “save lives”.

“In a cardiac arrest, seconds count,” United Voice Queensland Ambulance State Councillor Craig Crawford said.

“Most hospitals are running at extreme capacity at the moment but these new changes should turn it around.”

Mr Crawford said banning hospitals going on bypass would make a “huge difference” in Brisbane.

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