Paramedics delayed in Tas woman's death

·2-min read

A Hobart woman who died after choking on her dinner may have survived if paramedics weren't delayed by an inability to access the social housing complex where she lived.

In a report published on Thursday, a coroner ruled building access codes supplied by the complex to Ambulance Tasmania several years earlier had not been uploaded into an ambulance dispatch system used at the time.

Pamela Jacqueline Chamberlain, 55, was having dinner at a friend's unit in the complex on June 18, 2018 when she choked on a piece of steak.

Her friend called emergency services at 8.40pm after finding Ms Chamberlain on her side in the bathroom.

Ambulance Tasmania crews were dispatched two minutes later from headquarters about 100 metres away and arrived by 8.45pm.

Coroner Olivia McTaggart said paramedics could not access the building's entrance.

"There was no staff member on the ground floor to provide access and they did not have in their possession access details for the building," she said.

The complex, known as Common Ground, in 2015 provided Ambulance Tasmania with codes for a box containing access swipe cards.

Ms McTaggart said Ambulance Tasmania did not respond to Common Ground to advise the code had not been uploaded into Ambulance Tasmania systems.

"(Ambulance Tasmania) did not initiate further discussions with Common Ground to address the issue of this crucial information not being readily available to ambulance crews dispatched to the building," she said.

"From the perspective of Common Ground, provision of the code to Ambulance Tasmania was sufficient to provide ambulance crews with access to the front entrance and all levels of the building."

An on-site caretaker at the complex who helped provide initial CPR to Ms Chamberlain let paramedics into the building.

They reached her at about 8.50pm. She was taken to hospital and died shortly after 10pm.

"If their access had been unimpeded, there would have been an earlier opportunity to remove the obstruction from her airway and implement resuscitation measures in this critical period," Ms McTaggart said.

"If this had occurred, it is possible that she might have survived."

Ambulance Tasmania in 2019 implemented a new dispatch system with the capacity to store access information and for access information to be shared.

The director of medical services at Ambulance Tasmania told the coroner it wasn't routine to keep access information in the old system due to security risks and difficulties searching the database.

Ms McTaggart urged managers of housing and residential facilities to provide access details to Ambulance Tasmania.