Air transfer time considered quick

- Hospital went 'above and beyond' to ensure surgeon was qualified

A SIX-hour turnaround time to get a patient flown from the Border to Melbourne was considered “quick”, a court has heard.

But Albury hospital intensive care specialist Ziauddin Ansari conceded that if Corowa patient Robert Hawkins had been transferred from Albury hospital to Melbourne sooner, he might have had a better chance of survival.

Dr Ansari told the inquest at Wodonga Coroners Court yesterday that Mr Hawkins was clearly in shock, suffering severe blood loss and poor circulation when he took over his care at 9am on February 3, 2010 — the morning after the surgery in which two of Mr Hawkins’ arteries were mistakenly cut and not revascularised.

Dr Ansari ordered a CT scan for a suspected ischemic bowel, which was confirmed.

“I don’t think he had any chance of surviving at Albury when I saw him,” he said.

He said he told Mr Hawkins’ surgeon Jonathan Lewin, who spoke to a vascular surgeon at St Vincent’s Hospital and arranged an urgent transfer.

The adult retrieval team — from Melbourne because there is no Border service — was contacted about 11am and arrived about 2.30pm.

Mr Hawkins arrived at St Vincent’s about 5pm — 24 hours after his surgery.

Asked by coroner Jacinta Heffey about the turnaround time, Dr Ansari said the team’s arrival time “in my experience, was probably quick”.

Ms Heffey questioned why Mr Hawkins wasn’t transferred immediately by road instead of waiting for the plane, but Dr Ansari said flying was considered better when a patient’s condition was unstable.

He said if Mr Hawkins had been transferred earlier, he might have had a better chance of survival but “now knowing what happened, it’s easy for me to say that”.

Dr Ansari said he had no criticism of Mr Hawkins’ care before his involvement in the case.

“If I was in that situation I’ll probably do the same,” he said.

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