A State Coroner has criticised the staff of a skincare centre who delayed in calling for an ambulance after an elderly customer fainted in a steam bath.
The customer, Madam Loh Yoke Chan, 73, was having a steam bath at Derma Floral in Jurong East in March last year when she was found unconscious by a beautician at the centre. At an inquest into her death recently, State Coroner Imran Abdul Hamid said it saddened him that none of the staff seemed to know what to do when Madam Loh became unconscious when, according to the manager, they were trained on safety and emergency matters.
“It is astonishing that, since there was such training, none of the four staff had the presence of mind to pick up the phone and call for the ambulance early,” calling their delay a “blunder”.
Instead of dialling 999 or 995, they called her daughter, Ms Elizabeth Tan, 37, twice, and went nearby to seek help, but none made sure the ambulance was on its way. The ambulance finally arrived 40 minutes after Madam Loh was found, but it was too late. She was unresponsive and had burn injuries on her lower limbs when admitted to hospital. She died of multi-organ failure eight days later.
While the medical evidence could not prove that the “down” time of about 40 minutes contributed significantly to the cause of death, the coroner said that a burn victim should be treated as soon as possible to improve the chances of survival. He added that the delay seemed to be explained by the fact that the staff had “panicked”, and were waiting for one another to do what was needed.
At the inquest, the court heard that Madam Loh had difficulty breathing when she arrived at the centre close to 5pm. She had a history of high cholesterol and diabetes, and had been on regular follow-ups for her chronic conditions, which included hypertension. At about 5.20pm, a beautician called out to Madam Loh as she did not hear her taking a shower. There was no response.
She then found Madam Loh unconscious, half lying on the floor and half leaning against the wall of the steam bath cubicle. Someone used a piece of cardboard to fan her, while another went to seek help from a nearby clinic and a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner. The coroner said Madam Loh’s injuries were due to steam burns received inside a steam bath cubicle during a treatment session.
She died after developing complications from the burns and heat stroke that resulted in multi-organ failure, he added.
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