A hearing impaired man whose condition caused him to collapse due to a "very busy and extremely noisy" Launceston General Hospital emergency department has had his anti-discrimination complaint dismissed.
The complaint, heard by the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal, centred on the hospital's inability to provide the Meniere's disease sufferer a quiet room while he waited to be seen for chest pain, with the hospital at "escalation level red" due to access block.
On the day in question - June 20, 2019 - seven patients waited over 24 hours in the emergency department for an inpatient bed, and 31 waited over eight hours.
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Ashley Trounson was transported by ambulance from Deloraine to the LGH suffering acute chest pain. After undergoing an x-ray he was moved to the waiting room, then back into ED.
He was assessed as category 3 - to be seen within 30 minutes - but ended up waiting 90 minutes.
During this time, his Meniere's disease - an inner ear condition that causes extreme sensitivity to noise - worsened due to the loud LGH surroundings. Mr Trounson put his fingers in his ears, asked a staff member for a quiet space, but was allegedly refused.
A child started screaming and a high-pitched alarm then went off, causing him to collapse. His Meniere's disease attack lasted for 20 minutes before a doctor took him to the relative's room, usually reserved for mental health patients or to deliver bad news.
Mr Trounson claimed that staff members who witnessed his attack should have taken him to the relative's room sooner and that his condition is noted on his medical history with LGH, including that he needs a quiet room upon attendance.
The Tasmanian Health Service stated the need for a quiet space was not included in his clinical history.
Did quiet room refusal constitute disability discrimination?
Mr Trounson took the matter to the Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, who considered it on the basis of possible "indirect discrimination" due to disability and the provision of facilities - but dismissed the complaint.
It was then appealed to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.
The THS told the tribunal that Mr Trounson could not have been taken to the relative's room sooner because it is not nursed, is not visible from the outside, and his chest pain meant he could not be left there without a staff member.
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"There was no evidence that there were any staff available to take the complainant into the relative's room and supervise him at an earlier time," the tribunal heard.
In her decision earlier this month, tribunal chairperson Alison Clues found that Mr Trounson was not treated differently than anyone else who could have requested a quiet room at that time in the LGH.
"The evidence indicated on balance that if anyone had requested a quiet space at the same time that the complainant did, the response or position of the respondent would likely to have been the same," she said.
"The relative's room, which does not have nursing allocation, was free but there was no evidence of preferential treatment, that is the respondent did not allow a person without a hearing disability to use the relative's room in preference to the complainant."
The complaint was dismissed.