My matter, for the Health Minister, concerns a bizarre (and unacceptable) series of events in relation to the COVID-19 testing of Tim Farmer, a constituent of mine from Sandon.
On Saturday 4 April, Tim experienced the onset of various COVID-like symptoms and felt sufficiently concerned to contact Ballarat Base Hospital. Although 56 kilometres away, this was Tim’s nearest weekend coronavirus testing facility.
Tim explained to the hospital that he receives a disability pension and doesn’t drive – and, accordingly (having agreed he should be tested), they sent a non-urgent ambulance to him.
After the testing, he was discharged at around 7:30pm, told the results would be available in a few days, and instructed to return home independently and self-isolate in the interim.
Of course, Tim had expected that, having picked him up, the hospital would also return him home. He didn’t have money for a taxi and didn’t want to call a friend, especially if he was COVID-positive.
While an overnight bed was offered, the hospital’s response at this point was regrettably to tell Tim they were unable to help any further. Seemingly, there was considerable uncertainty there about how and where the ambulance needed to be decontaminated and/or any other contingencies for returning a patient home after COVID-19 testing.
Amid pouring rain, Tim therefore absurdly started the 56 kilometre walk home. Local police officers subsequently found him at around 2:30am lying in a roadside gutter, and drove him home themselves instead.
Tim later lodged a formal complaint with the hospital, which culminated in them sending a written apology on 14 April.
Among many other concerns, all of these events prompt some rather obvious questions. Two of which I’ll ask rhetorically for now. Namely, why was an ambulance sent to pick Tim up if there was no certainty about how he would return home? And why was the test simply not undertaken at his residence in a case like his?
More to the point, the action I seek from the Minister is that she provide an explanation as to why clear protocols for such (presumably not uncommon) scenarios were not already in place by then? Especially in view of the limited numbers of (and typically large distances between) COVID testing centres in regional Victoria.
As Tim advises me that he wishes to receive a written apology from both Ambulance Victoria and the Health Minister herself, I would also ask Ms Mikakos if she considers whether the tendering of those apologies is appropriate in the circumstances.