Stroke victim turned away from NSW hospital, forced to drive to Qld for help

A MAN has been forced to drive more than 70 kilometres to the Gold Coast while suffering a stroke after being turned away from a hospital in northern NSW and told there was no ambulance available to take him.

NSW Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord has demanded Health Minister Brad Hazzard launch an independent external investigation into the incident which occurred at the new Byron Central Hospital in Byron Bay.

Paul Rea was on March 27 forced to make his wife drive him across the state border into Queensland for treatment as the hospital at Byron Bay did not have the facilities to treat him, nor could it secure an ambulance to transport him safely to another hospital.


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The Shadow Health Minister said it was the second time a patient has been turned away from the hospital and forced to drive north to Queensland.

Mr Secord said he was “alarmed and disturbed” by the growing list of recent patient failures involving Byron Central Hospital and the NSW Ambulance Service on the state’s North Coast.

He’s demanded a thorough independent external investigation into ambulance staffing levels and whether the new hospital is being properly resourced.

“It is simply downright ludicrous that a NSW hospital was unable to treat a stroke victim,” Mr Secord said.

“Clearly, North Coast patients are being let down by the State Liberal-National Government.

“Serious questions need to be answered about whether Byron Central Hospital and the NSW Ambulance Service are being properly resourced on the North Coast.

“It seems like another day, another patient at Byron Central Hospital is unable to be properly treated and they had to be transferred to Queensland.

“There is little point in spending millions to build a brand new hospital, and then fail to properly resource that hospital. It doesn’t make sense.”

Mr Rea had driven 17km from his home at Coorabell to get to Byron Central Hospital before being made to travel the additional 73km to the John Flynn Private Hospital on the Gold Coast.

Mr Secord said the 90-kilometre journey was an “incredible” distance for someone to travel while having a stroke.

“In an emergency situation like a stroke, every minute counts and we know every delay results in permanent injury and a longer recovery,” he said.

“While the Byron Central Hospital was officially opened in May 2016 with much fanfare by the Nationals and the Health Minister, the community has only seen a reduction in health care in the community.”

Northern NSW Local Health District chief executive Wayne Jones has confirmed an investigation is underway.

“The Northern NSW Local Health District (NNSW LHD) is investigating the concerns of a patient who presented to Byron Central Hospital in March 2017, but was subsequently admitted to John Flynn Private Hospital,” the statement read.

“Initial results from the review show that the patient was triaged, examined and assessed as stable by the senior emergency physician on duty, prior to discharge and referral to John Flynn Private Hospital being arranged.

“The time taken for the patient to be examined, receive medical imaging and be assessed as stable was one hour  45 minutes, during which time a referral to a specialist neurologist was arranged.

“Upon discharge, the patient was provided with the option to travel privately to John Flynn Private Hospital based on his stable condition.

 “The specialist physician has since been in contact with the patient who advised the clinician he was more than satisfied with the treatment he received at BCH.

“The NNSW LHD is pleased to note that the patient has made a full recovery.”

Mr Rea told The Northern Star that the issue was centred on the hospital’s inability to resource an ambulance to transfer him, not the treatment provided by hospital staff.

“I was exposed to medical danger because of a lack of decent transport,” he said.