“Completely Abhorrent”: Medical Care Criticised At Inquest Into Festival Drug Deaths

One doctor on ground told his superiors he was "not equipped to deal with" MDMA-related emergencies.

festival drug deaths

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The ongoing coronial inquest into the deaths of six festival goers over the summer period has been told that at least two tragedies could potentially have been averted by adequate staffing at medical tents.

As reported by Triple J’s Hack, the inquest alleges that 22-year-old Josh Tam died at last year’s Lost Paradise festival after being taken to a medical tent run by a company called EMS. The tent was staffed by only one doctor, who himself has admitted to being unprepared for dealing with MDMA reactions. He even told his superiors as much, advising them that he was “not equipped to deal with” such emergencies.

Moreover, the medical professional to punter ratio was one to 11,000. As Avani Dias, a journalist for Hack noted, that ratio is common for NSW festivals.

Furthermore, the inquest has found that the tragic death of Joseph Pham at Defqon.1 was the result of inadequate care from medical tent professionals also working for EMS. In Pham’s case, professionals did not expedite Pham to the hospital in time to save his life.

Last Friday, intensive care paramedic Timothy Mascorella called the medical tent “completely abhorrent.”

“I found it extremely difficult to deliver care to [Pham] as there was no team leader established,” Mascorella told the inquest, as reported by The Guardian. “The doctors were giving the patient medication during [his cardiac arrest] that we weren’t aware of. I found the lack of leadership and crew resource management of the Event Medical Services crew to be completely abhorrent.”

That tent was staffed by two doctors rather than Lost Paradise’s one, but suffered from similar problems of inexperience. One of the doctors, had never independently intubated a patient, a method of clearing an airway that can save the life of someone having an adverse reaction to drugs.

As The Guardian reports, Pham’s death has been described as preventable by specialist and Associate Professor Anna Holdgate of South Western Sydney Clinical School.

“In my opinion, if Joseph had received immediate treatment to lower his body temperature and had been promptly transported to hospital by appropriately skilled NSW Ambulance intensive-care paramedics, he would have arrived at hospital prior to his cardiac arrest and may have been effectively resuscitated,” Holdgate wrote in a report presented as part of the inquest.

The inquest will continue throughout the week.