South West Wales

Sonia Powell who died in ambulance at Morriston Hospital 'let down'

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Media captionMrs Powell was originally admitted to Neath Port Talbot Hospital on Monday

The family of a grandmother who died while waiting in a queue of ambulances blames "cutbacks" for her death.

Sonia Powell, 73, was said to have waited "at least an hour" outside Morriston Hospital, Swansea, after a suspected heart attack.

Officials said the hospital had been busy and the wait had been 36 minutes.

Meanwhile Health Minister Mark Drakeford has admitted to AMs the performance of the ambulance service was "not where we would like it to be".

An investigation is under way into what happened before Mrs Powell died in the ambulance queue outside Morriston Hospital on Wednesday afternoon.

Kim Thompson said her grandmother had been admitted to Neath Port Talbot Hospital on Monday, but was being transferred to the cardiac unit at Morriston having had a suspected heart attack and fluid on the lungs.

'Lack of communication'

She said that on arrival the ambulance driver took in Mrs Powell's notes to the hospital, where they were examined by a doctor who expressed frustration that a decision had been made to transfer her there.

At the time, eight to nine ambulances were queuing there because there were no free beds, Ms Thompson said.

She said a doctor came "only five minutes" before her grandmother died, and that the family was concerned about how her grandmother "was dealt with at the end", especially about what they believed to be "the lack of communication between the hospitals".

Image copyright Wales News Service
Image caption Sonia Powell (left) and her sister Cheryl Davies both died on the same day

Mrs Powell, from Banwen in the Neath Valley, was a grandmother of 14, and great-grandmother of 14.

Granddaughter Gemma Evans said her grandmother had "at least" deserved a bed for her final moments, and should have been in a proper bed with her family around her.

She said: "We blame the cutbacks in the health service that has resulted in all of the ambulances having to wait."

Mrs Powell's death marked a devastating 24 hours for her family. Earlier on Wednesday, Mrs Powell's sister Cheryl Davies, 64, died at a local hospice.

'Knock-on effect'

Both the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust (WAST) and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU) said they wanted to have a "full understanding of what happened".

In a statement, ABMU said it offered its "sincere condolences" to the family. It said it had been a "busy day" intensified by 20 emergency ambulances "arriving and departing within a short space of time".

The board confirmed Mrs Powell's ambulance, which had two paramedics, left Neath Port Talbot Hospital at 14:49 BST and arrived at Morriston Hospital at 15:04 BST.

But it maintained that an A&E doctor assessed Mrs Powell at 15:07 BST, and that a doctor remained with her until she died at 15:40 BST.

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Media captionGemma Evans says the family wants the truth to come out

It continued: "At its peak there were 12 operational ambulances outside the department but not all had patients on board.

"Escalation plans were activated in the morning and the department was well staffed.

"Staff across the hospital worked closely with colleagues from WAST to keep delays to a minimum and move patients from the emergency department to available beds as quickly as possible."

The board said at peak times handovers "can take longer than we would like", but there had been "a significant reduction" in handover times over the past few months.

Swansea and Gower Coroner's Office said there would be no inquest in to Mrs Powell's death, nor would there be a post mortem examination.

Previous cases

Ambulance delays have been raised as an issue at several inquests in Wales in recent months.

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