Indigenous woman Naomi Williams “let down” by Australia’s health system

The inquest into the death of Naomi Williams, and her unborn child, has highlighted the poor quality and treatment of Indigenous people in Australia’s health system. The inquest, which concluded a couple of weeks ago, sparked several recommendations from a NSW coroner to address the health outcomes of Indigenous people.

Deputy State Coroner, Harriet Grahame, recommended auditing statistics for discharging Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients against medical advice, in an attempt to stop systemic bias. Other recommendations from Coroner Grahame included ensuring Aboriginal Health Liaison Workers are available 24-hours a day, and that there was a quota for Indigenous staff at the hospital. The coroner also recommended auditing, triage times and referrals for drug and alcohol reviews for patients presenting to the Emergency Department at Tumut Hospital.

Naomi Williams

The 27-year-old Wiradjuri woman, who was 6-months pregnant, was at the Tumut District Hospital in the early morning of January 1, 2016, with severe pain. Hospital staff gave her two paracetamol tablets and an ice block before sending her home.

Ms Williams died 15 hours later as a result of meningococcal and septicaemia, according to the autopsy report. During the inquest, it was found that Ms Williams had presented to Tumut Hospital 18 times in the months before her death. As the NSW Coroner said, Ms Williams was “let down” by the Australian health system.

Our work in Coronial Inquests and Medical Negligence

An investigation into the death of a family member can cause great distress and grief for everyone. At O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors, we pride ourselves for our extensive experience in assisting clients at coronial inquests. We advise that you seek legal advice and representation if:

  • you are the family of the deceased person,
  • you have been notified by the Registry of the Coroner’s Court that your interest may be adversely affected by the proceedings, or
  • you have been notified by the Registry of the Coroner’s Court that you might be the subject of criticism in the course of the proceedings.

O’Brien Criminal and Civil Solicitors are also experts in assisting clients sue medical practitioners or hospitals for medical negligence. A successful claim for medical negligence can result in the awarding of compensation for the harm caused by the negligence of a medical professional. However, there is a high threshold for medical negligence. Note that a family member of a person who has died as a result of medical negligence may be able to make a claim for nervous shock. Again, the success of this claim will depend on the circumstances of the case. If you think you have suffered harm as a result of medical negligence, or are a family member of someone who has died as a result of medical negligence, speak to one of our civil solicitors today to determine whether you have a potential claim for compensation.

Please contact us on (02) 9261 4281 if you are in need of legal advice or representation from a lawyer experienced in dealing with coronial inquests or medical negligence. Alternatively, you can leave us a message through our online contact form.

Naomi Williams’ cousin Graham Kilby said the family needed closure outside the NSW Coroner’s Court earlier this year. Source: Yahoo News Australia

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Peter O'Brien

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