A NSW coroner has said the response by emergency services was “inadequate” after a 78-year-old man was found dead almost four hours after making a triple-0 call.
Peter Bernard Woodcroft, 78, had extensive health issues including congestive heart failure and hypertension and had made 11 calls to triple-0 in the three years to March 2016.
On June 30, 2016, he made another call from his Waterloo home at 4.32 am, moaning and telling the operator: “I can’t hear you,” an inquest heard.
When a person calling triple-0 cannot articulate their needs the Telstra emergency operator transfers the call to police.
The operator who forwarded the call to police did not tell them Mr Woodcroft had moaned or what he said and the call wasn’t regarded as urgent. The police operator got no response on the other end of the line despite repeatedly asking if the caller needed police.
The call was passed on for broadcast to police patrols to do a welfare check, but no police unit was able to attend Mr Woodcroft’s flat until 8.14am.
Mr Woodcroft was pronounced dead almost four hours after making the phone call, with paramedics, who had been called by attending police, saying he was cold to the touch and appeared to have “been dead for some time”. He died of heart failure.
An inquest heard the 11 other calls Mr Woodcroft had made to emergency services in the past were to complain of chest pains or breathing problems. Each of those calls was diverted to Ambulance NSW and he was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital each time.
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On six occasions it was also recorded that he had “difficulty speaking between breaths”.
In her findings, Deputy NSW Coroner Magistrate Teresa O’Sullivan made recommendations that NSW Police, the NSW Ambulance and Telstra consider developing a system to share the audio recordings of a callers triple zero history.
“The evidence is supportive of a recommendation that, in an appropriate case, information as to a callers previous history should be made available to responding police,” the coroner said.