18/05/2022 - 15:30

Help for St John after 'unacceptable' death

18/05/2022 - 15:30

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Fire, police and health officers have been dispatched to St John HQ over the death of a Perth grandmother.

Help for St John after 'unacceptable' death
Questions remain over St John response to grandmother's call for help.

Fire fighters are being trained to drive ambulances, while police and health department officials have also been deployed to help St John Ambulance, after grandmother Georgina Wild died waiting more than two hours for paramedics to respond to her triple-0 call on the weekend.

Two senior officers from the WA Police COVID operation and two health response experts will be based at the ambulance service's Belmont headquarters to ensure the agency can access any additional resources.

Premier Mark McGowan said that could include using firefighters to drive ambulances if St John staffing numbers dropped again because of Covid furloughing. St John chief executive Michelle Fyfe later said that plan was now being implemented.

"Over the last couple of months we've been working closely with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services," she said. "Over the weekend, 48 fire fighters will be trained in how to operate ambulances and work with paramedics. From next Tuesday, those 48 fire fighters will be out on the frontline with our paramendics."

Mr McGowan has been critical of St John for not asking for help given the service was operating on 40 per cent less staff in the early hours of Sunday morning, when Mrs Wild died at home of a suspected heart attack.

She had called the emergency telephone number twice while suffering chest pains, but by the time paremedics arrived the 80-year-old had died on her couch. There were about 20 ambulances covering the metropolitan area at the time.

Grandmother Georgina Wild. Photo: Supplied.

St john is currently negotiating a new contract with the government and dealing with an inquiry into the agency's performance by a committee of parliament.

"There is a lot of pressure because of Covid and these additional measures are putting assistance so the remaining paramedics on the road get additional support when we have crews out," Mr McGowan said.

It's unlcear why the priority one call, normally responded to within 15 minutes, went unattended for so long.

"The events on Sunday morning were unacceptable to the government in Western Australia," the premier said, while flanked by his health minister Amber-Jade Sanderson, the acting police commissioner Col Blanch and the director general of health David Russell-Weisz.

Ms Fyfe said she welcomed the government's response.

"We welcome the opportunity to have the deputy chief health officer come inside our organisation and have a look and understand exactly the impact of a stressed health system and ramping and the impact that has on the frontline service delivery for ambulance," she said. "We look forward to have police there."

Since the Sunday tragedy, St John has brought back paramedics from Covid leave and there were 80 ambulances on the road today. There is an inquiry to determine why it took so long to send an ambulance to Mrs Wild's Ashby home.

"Paramedics on the front line and the people in the operations centre do an outstanding job," said health department chief executive Dr Russell-Weisz. "It's very tough. We want to make sure there is no stone uncovered. We want to make sure that if there are any blockages in the system we do our best to unblock."

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