An elderly Indigenous woman died at a funeral after requests for an ambulance were refused, according to an Indigenous elder in the remote NT town of Borroloola.
Jack Green said the woman and members of the community 650 kilometres south-east of Katherine were attending the funeral on Saturday when she became unwell.
He said he called Borroloola’s Health Clinic requesting an ambulance but he was told by a staff member that they could not send one.
He said the staff member did not provide a reason why an ambulance could not be sent from the nearby clinic.
“I said, ‘Look, we really need an ambulance down here’,” he told the ABC.
“They said, ‘Nah we can’t send any vehicle down, you have to get family to bring her up here’.
“I said, ‘We’re right in the middle of a big funeral here’.”
Mr Green said members of the woman’s family, despite being distraught at the funeral, then drove the woman to the clinic.
He said he believed she may have died on the way there or upon arrival.
He said he understood there was an ambulance at the clinic and did not understand why it was not dispatched.
“If we had someone out there it would have helped a lot,” he said.
The lady was a patient of the clinic and Mr Green said staff there knew she was in poor health.
“They know she was a really crook lady,” he said.
NT Health investigating death
In a statement, Michael Kalimnios from the NT Health Department said he was deeply saddened by the woman’s death and that it was being investigated as a priority.
Mr Green was now calling for an ambulance to be stationed at all funerals in Borroloola in the future to avoid a similar tragedy occurring.
“We ask the hospital there if we can have one on standby for in future,” he said.
“Just in case this thing happen again, because it’s shocked the family of this old lady.”