For Sharon Williams the heartbreak of losing her 27-year-old daughter Naomi Jane in tragic circumstances on January 1, 2016, has been compounded by what she sees as mistreatment and a lack of care from Tumut Hospital and their staff in the months before and after Naomi’s passing.
After presenting to Tumut Hospital with severe stomach pains on a number of occasions in 2015, Naomi was repeatedly referred to Drug and Alcohol or Mental Health services. Not once was she referred to a specialist despite having a gall bladder removed some years earlier which may have had an ongoing impact on her health.
The last time she attended the hospital seeking care she was six months pregnant and after complaining of a severe headache was advised by nursing staff to take some Panadol and was sent home. Within the next 24 hours, Naomi died from a major heart attack.
The autopsy reported that her death was a result of meningococcal and septicemia, a form of blood poisoning caused by bacteria that can attack organs such as the heart.
In a letter sent to the NSW heath minister, Naomi’s mother has pleaded for answers.
“Naomi's grieving partner Michael Lampe, our families and community members require answers to why Naomi died.”
“What caused her to have a massive heart attack and die so young? Was it neglect on behalf of doctors and staff? These are questions we require answers to.”
The day after Naomi’s passing, relatives arrived to grieve with the family. Accompanying Sharon to the hospital, they asked to see Naomi one last time.
They were told by the nurses that they must be accompanied by the police to view the body and were then directed to the public waiting room, rather than a private space, to express their anguish over Naomi’s sudden death.
“No empathy or compassion was shown to our family the nurses were abrupt and quite rude when we enquired how long it would be before police arrived,” Naomi’s aunt Candy Williams said in a letter to Tumut Hospital.
“We waited for over an hour for the police to arrive and we felt our last moments with Naomi were impersonal and regimented.”
In the following days, community health workers contacted Naomi’s extended family members to advise anyone who had been in contact with her to have a test for meningococcal disease.
This was a particularly distressing turn of event for her mother Sharon as she herself was not contacted. “To this day I have still not heard from anyone in regards to this disgusting failure of care and lack of confidentiality.”
Concerns have been raised over nursing shortages within the district after officials from the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association met with management at Wagga Wagga Hospital last week. They claim that nurses have been forced to work overtime and spend their time completing menial tasks such cleaning beds rather than tending to patients.
In a statement released by the Murrumbidgee Local Health District, Chief Executive Jill Ludford expressed her condolences for the family’s loss.
She affirmed that the hospital was ‘staffed appropriately according to the level of patient activity at the time of Naomi’s presentation to the Emergency Department where she was assessed and treated.’
After undertaking an internal investigation the matter has been referred to the New South Wales coroner for a further examination. The Health District has sought a meeting with the family, when they are ready, to discuss the outcome of the internal investigation and to discuss any improvements that may be made to the system.
For now however, the family continue to grieve and question the tragic death of a life lost too young.