Family furious after man dies with Covid while waiting for an ambulance

·3-min read

The devastated family of a Queensland man who died while waiting for an ambulance is calling out the state's health system, saying their father could have been saved if medical attention arrived on time.

Derek Dewitt, 77, tested positive for Covid but collapsed at his Brisbane home on January 6 after having trouble breathing, prompting his family to call emergency services, Nine News reported.

When an ambulance didn't arrive after 45 minutes, his wife reportedly rang back again, where she was then placed on hold four times before being put through to Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS).

Lisa Carmichael and Mareta Dewitt smiling at camera standing either side of their father Derek, who died after a long wait for an ambulance.
Lisa Carmichael and Mareta Dewitt have launched a formal complaint after their father Derek died waiting for an ambulance in Queensland. Source: Nine News

Derek would 'still be here' if ambulance arrived, family say

Despite his case being upgraded from a 1B to a 1A, Mr Dewitt — who was fully vaccinated — died five minutes before the ambulance arrived. The ambulance had taken one hour to arrive.

"I asked the policeman that was attending why they took so long and he just said, 'That's just how long they're taking at the moment,'" Mr Dewitt's daughter Mareta Dewitt told Nine News.

Derek Dewitt with a woman in front of a wood panelled door.
Derek Dewitt passed away on his bedroom floor after saying he couldn't breathe. Source: Facebook

Ms Dewitt and her sister Lisa Carmichael are lodging a formal complaint with the hospital, saying if they had known about the delays they would have made alternative arrangements to take him to the hospital near their home.

"He did everything he was supposed to do but when he needed some help, there was no help for him," Ms Carmichael said.

"If our health system became so overwhelmed with Covid cases that it would become so clogged up, that if an emergency like this happened they wouldn’t get to you in time, and they didn’t," Ms Dewitt wrote in a Facebook post.

Derek Dewitt and his daughter Mareta. Source: Facebook
Derek Dewitt and his daughter Mareta. Source: Facebook

Ms Dewitt also said her stepmother was told that they had to ‘clean out the ambulance’ because they had a Covid positive person in it before attending to her father, adding to the delays.

"My father had Covid, he died from Covid, as per your coroner's report," she wrote.

"We aren’t even at the peak of this pandemic and people are dying unnecessarily because you have not done your job properly.

"QLD Ambulance workers are going to be traumatised for life after this debacle, left to decide who lives and who dies because YOU have left them unprepared and under-resourced."

QAS admits 'significant delays'

A statement from the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) said it experienced "significant delays".

"The QAS was experiencing a high level of demand for service with paramedic availability also affected by significant delays transferring patients at hospital emergency departments," the statement read.

"QAS has undertaken a comprehensive review of the clinical and operational aspects of its response."

On Monday, Queensland's Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said the state could be close to reaching their Covid peak.

He said Queensland wasn't having a "very tall peak" like NSW or Victoria, but hospitalisations are so far lower than the thousands expected.

"So far the impact of the epidemic is less than we expected, so far in this wave, but ... I'm trying to be cautious here because we still haven't reached a peak here in Brisbane," he said.

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