Daughter of 80yo woman who died while ramped at Royal Hobart Hospital recalls ‘traumatic’ end

A woman who died in the Royal Hobart Hospital this week after being ramped for two hours has been remembered as a loving mother and grandmother who cared deeply for her family and friends.

Lindisfarne woman Kathleen Schramm, 80, died after being taken to the hospital on Tuesday with severe abdominal pain, where she was placed in the emergency medical unit — an area of the hospital prior to admission.

Her daughter Rebecca Schramm was first not allowed to see her mother due to her being ramped but was allowed access after 20 minutes.

She said it was a distressing situation.

“We thought she was in the ambulance, she was going to hospital, she was going to be taken care of, and she wasn’t,” Ms Schramm said.

“Nothing was done until she died, and then suddenly 10 people came and were giving her CPR. It was just traumatic.

“She was really loved, she had eight children. She had a lot of friends. She was very active and was just a really good person.

“This isn’t how she should have died.”

Ms Schramm said hospital staff were “clearly overworked” and that she had no criticisms of them.

“I just tried to look after my mum, but she was just writhing in pain, so much pain. Then she just said, ‘I can’t do it in any more’ and she passed away in my arms. And she hadn’t seen a doctor.” 

A line of ambulances queued up down the ramp to the emergency department at the Royal Hobart Hospital.
Ambulances ‘ramped’ at the Royal Hobart Hospital, August 2019(ABC News: Peter Curtis)

In a statement earlier on Thursday, Department of Health Secretary Kathrine Morgan-Wicks said she could “confirm a patient died in the Emergency Medical Unit, which is located inside the Royal Hobart Hospital’s Emergency Department, on Tuesday 22 November”.

“As is the case whenever a patient dies in our care, we take this matter very seriously and we give our sincere condolences to the family and friends of this patient.

“The Royal Hobart Hospital and Ambulance Tasmania will be undertaking a review to fully understand the circumstances around the patient’s death.

“This is now a matter for the Coroner and further comment would be inappropriate.”

Ambulance ramping happens when emergency departments are full and cannot admit new patients.

Data shows drop in patients ‘seen on time’

Latest data from the Tasmanian Health Department, for September, shows that 28 per cent of Royal Hobart Hospital emergency department patients were seen on time, described as “within the maximum waiting time from their time of arrival”.

This was a significant decline from earlier in the year, when the figure sat above 40 per cent.

The biggest drop was among category 3 patients, who have “potentially life-threatening” medical conditions and are in severe discomfort or distress. Only 19 per cent of these patients were seen on time.

RHH COVID escalation has increased to level 2, with the department urging Tasmanians to avoid attending the hospital unless necessary.

Premier Jeremy Rockliff said the government was continually attempting to address staff shortages across the health system, but accepted demand pressures were growing.

“We know there can be periods of significant demand, and we also understand people in the community are concerned at that increasing demand. We’re doing a lot of work to alleviate the pressures of ambulance ramping,” he said.

“Of course we need to work with our federal government.

“We have too many people that should be having an aged care bed in an aged care facility, and too many people in the NDIS should have the appropriate setting disability setting for them as well.”

The death comes three months after a woman in her 70s died after being ramped at Launceston General Hospital for nine hours.

A woman with blonde hair sits at a desk and speaks
Rosalie Woodruff says the latest death is a symptom of a health system under pressure.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Greens health spokesperson Rosalie Woodruff told parliament the state was not publicly disclosing deaths while ramped at hospitals.

She said the latest death was a symptom of a health system under pressure.

“Premier [Rockliff] …  you’ve failed to take ramping risk seriously and your current COVID policies increase transmissions and are making things worse,” Ms Woodruff said.

“Do you accept the continual numbers of patients being ramped and the longer times they’re spending ramped is putting the lives of so many Tasmanians at greater risk?”

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