A grieving family has not accepted an apology from the operator of the rural NSW hospital which sent home a pregnant Indigenous woman hours before she died from a treatable infection.
Naomi Williams was six months pregnant when she presented at the emergency department of Tumut District Hospital in the early hours of New Year’s Day 2016.
Nurses gave the 27-year-old Wiradjuri woman paracetamol and allowed her to go home after 34 minutes.
Her condition then worsened and 15 hours later she died from a bacterial infection (meningococcal) and blood poisoning (sepsis).
A coronial inquest released on Monday concluded that the hospital failed to properly assess Ms Williams’ pain, contact the on-call doctor or look at her extensive hospital history.
The Wiradjuri woman had presented to the hospital 18 times in the eight months before her death, had shown similar symptoms previously and had been deemed to be having a high-risk pregnancy.
The hospital operator - Murrumbidgee Local Health District – released a statement on Wednesday apologising to the friends and family of Ms Williams.
“I am deeply sorry for Ms Williams’ death,” said Jill Ludford, the health district’s CEO.
“The Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) acknowledges that Ms Williams should have been provided with better treatment throughout her presentations to Tumut District Hospital,” Ms Ludford said in the statement.
“MLHD is carefully considering the coroner’s findings and recommendations.”
One of Ms Williams’ cousins, academic commentator Professor Anita Heiss, said the family did not accept the apology.
“We would of obviously preferred an apology from the health service face-to-face,” she told NITV News. “You need more than words you need action.”
"We don't feel we are in a position to accept an apology until Tumut hospital staff show... that they are taking absolute care of Aboriginal patients, that they are taking our health issues seriously and that they make real and permanent changes to the way they treat Aboriginal patients there."
George Newhouse, principal solicitor of the National Justice Project which represented the Williams family throughout the coronial process, reiterated that position.
"The family would like any apology to include specific reference to what action is being taken to address the criticisms that the coroner made about the unsatisfactory care that Naomi received from Tumut hospital," he said.