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More patient deaths mar final days of Marshall campaign

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An investigation is underway into two more deaths of patients following delays in ambulances arriving as health continues to dominate the final days of the election campaign, despite the Premier trying to turn attention to the state’s employment opportunities.

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Premier Steven Marshall this morning offered his condolences to the families and confirmed a review was underway after the paramedics’ union tweeted news of the “tragic” deaths.

“Two patients passing away, with delayed ambulance responses,” the the Ambulance Employees Association tweeted.

The union said a 94-year-old patient died after waiting 56 minutes for an ambulance, while a 20-year-old died after a wait of 45 minutes.

The union said both callouts were within five kilometres of the CBD and ambulances should have attended both patients within 16 minutes.

It follows the deaths of two patients last Monday who the union said again waited too long for help. The SA Ambulance Service is also investigating those.

Marshall this morning said it was “obviously very sad news… and my thoughts and condolences are with the family and friends of those two people who have passed”.

“Obviously there’s a review which is underway at the moment, we’ll wait for that result,” he said.

“We don’t know whether the delay in getting ambulances there was a contributing factor (to the deaths).

“Obviously we want to end ramping in South Australia, we want to end delays through our hospital system and that’s why we’ve got record investment into this area at the moment.”

Health Minister Stephen Wade also offered his “sincere condolences” to the families and friends of the patients but said he had been advised ramping “wasn’t a factor”.

“Our ambulance service exists to provide urgent care and often a callout is a matter of life and death but not every callout can avert a death,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“So that’s why each case is thoroughly reviewed by the ambulance service to see what factors impacted on the patient outcome and what part ambulance response times may have played.”

Wade said he had received “preliminary advice” that “one of the key dynamics of yesterday was a high triple zero demand”.

“I’m advised that ramping wasn’t a factor and that crewing was OK yesterday,” he said.

The issue dominated the first part of a press conference that Marshall had called to spruik job opportunities in South Australia – standing next to local tech company Pernix which today put out a call to fill 100 positions needed to expand its business.

“This election is all about who you trust to deliver a stronger future and also create more job opportunities – exciting job opportunities for the next generation,” Marshall said.

“And the choice couldn’t be clearer: a continuing proven Liberal government which has got a strong economy moving in South Australia, a strong recovery from COVID, or going to a politically opportunistic Labor Opposition who are spending recklessly at the moment, and we all know what that means – it means taxpayers in South Australia are going to be paying through the nose come Saturday if Peter Malinauskas becomes the Premier.”

Malinauskas was keen to keep the focus on health today – announcing $900,000 over three years to support three new 24-hour community pharmacies to “provide medication and care when South Australian families most need it and help reduce pressure on hospitals”.

“When we see the crisis on the ambulance ramps, we need a comprehensive plan and pharmacy has an important role to play,” he said.

“For every South Australian parent that’s woken up in the middle of the night and their youngest has got an earache and you’ve just run out of paracetamol or whatever it may be, it’s a frustrating experience and Labor has a plan to address it.

“Labor in government I can announce will deliver three 24-hour, seven-day-a-week pharmacies across metropolitan Adelaide – one in the northern suburbs, one in central Adelaide and one in the southern suburbs.”

Malinauskas said having 24-hour pharmacies in SA was “actually a really important plan as part of our plan to fix the ramping crisis”.

“This morning, the hearts of all South Australians is breaking yet again,” he said.

“We hear the news that overnight there were yet two more people that died waiting for an ambulance.

“How much longer are we going to allow this to continue?”

Malinauskas said the problem of ambulance delays was now “a crisis that is costing people’s lives”.

“It cannot continue,” he said.

“We have a chance at this election – to choose Steven Marshall’s basketball stadium or choose a serious investment in our health system.

“I will not lead a government that sits on its hands while South Australians are calling triple zero wondering whether the ambulance is going to roll up on time.

“We need a serious plan to fix the ramping crisis. It’s not just about having more capacity in our hospitals which is important. It’s also about people not needing to go to hospital in the first place.”

The SA Ambulance Service confirmed an internal review was underway into the two latest deaths, on top of the review launched into last week’s deaths.

“While many factors influence SAAS’s response to a patient, we continue to triage all patients and attend to the most urgent first,” it said.

“SAAS offers sincere condolences to the loved ones of both patients.”

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