The family of a pregnant Wiradjuri woman who died after multiple visits to a Riverina hospital has told a coronial inquest about their heartbreak and the need for reforms in hospital care for Indigenous Australians.
Naomi Williams, 27, was six-months pregnant and died of a heart attack in January 2016 after 18 visits to Tumut Hospital.
On her final visit, she was treated with panadol then discharged after only 34 minutes.
Less than a day later, she died from a heart attack.
In the NSW Coroner’s Court on Friday, Naomi’s mother, Sharon, said her heart shattered when her only daughter died.
“I lost my beloved daughter and grandson,” she said.
“The Aboriginal community at Tumut and Brungle is very close and they suffered too."
Sharon also spoke about the lack of hospital treatment given to her daughter.
“She was desperate for help, but her pleas were not heard by the health service in Tumut,” she said.
“She was invisible to the health system ... she felt the system didn’t believe her.”
Sharon called for reforms to the health system, including better communications, transparency and culturally safe health services “for our people in times of need”.
“We hope that her death can save others from the same tragedy she met," Sharon said.
The inquest also heard from Michael Lampe, the partner of Naomi, who said “It just doesn’t seem real”.
“The dream life Naomi and I wanted was starting to come together we knew where in life we wanted to be,” Mr Lampe said.
“And all that’s left is empty darkness.”
Mr Lampe said Naomi was more than a wonderful, beautiful woman who "will forever be in my heart".
During the inquest on Friday, Maria Louise Roche, NSW Health manager for the Riverina at the time of Naomi’s death, admitted that the hospital procedures did not meet Ms Williams’ needs.
When questioned about how she would now address Ms Williams who presented herself “many, many times” for severe physical pains, Ms Roche said “I’ve learnt a lot from this”.
Asked about why it was difficult to refer Ms Williams to specialist treatment, rather than drugs and alcohol and mental health specialists, Ms Roche said: “I’m not able to answer that...because I wasn’t there”.
The inquest also heard that Ms Roche and Tumut Hospital staff underwent only minimal training relating to cultural knowledge of Indigenous Australians in hospital settings.
During cross examination by the family’s barrister Craig Longman, Ms Roche broke down in tears and said she wanted to see changes across the health system to improve care for all patients.
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