SCANNER NEEDED: Terri and Darby Fitzgerald at Charleville Hospital months after Darby almost died from an infected appendix, which could not be diagnosed because the hospital does not have a CT scanner.
SCANNER NEEDED: Terri and Darby Fitzgerald at Charleville Hospital months after Darby almost died from an infected appendix, which could not be diagnosed because the hospital does not have a CT scanner. Ellen Ransley

'One wrong bump and he'd be dead': Two women, two stories

ROBYN Bryant and Terri Fitzgerald don't have much in common, but they do share one goal - getting CT scanners installed at their local hospitals.

Both women almost lost their husbands after they were forced to drive them to Roma, before being flown to Brisbane.

Robyn Bryant's story

IN 2016, Robyn's husband Greg fell off his motorcycle on their property, 130km from St George, while mustering cattle.

"I found him and took him back to the house where I called 000. I organised to meet the ambulance on the way to town," she said.

"By the time we got to St George Hospital, he had been stabilised a bit in the ambulance. The doctors did an ultrasound on him with their tiny, mobile machine.

"They thought they could see some free fluid around his stomach but with that machine it was hard to see."

The next morning, doctors told Robyn her husband needed a proper CT scan, meaning a two-hour drive along the Carnarvon Highway.

"I drove him up to Roma in our car. After the CT scan, it became immediately apparent it was serious," she said.

"He had a grade four liver laceration, only a small amount of his liver was still joined. Everyone was in a bit of panic."

Greg was flown to the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane via the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

"Only once we had spoken to a specialist did we realise how serious it was. The laceration was within 2mm of the main blood source to the liver," she said.

"He explained to us, that any bump or sudden movement could cause more damage.

"At any point on that drive, he could have died."

Robyn said the doctors in St George could not predict the huge risk without a CT scanner.

"A CT scanner is pretty standard piece of equipment for a hospital. I realise we're not a huge town, but the hospital is still fairly busy," she said.

"They fly a lot of patients out because they just don't know. It's at an expense of something like $200,000 a year for testing that, given the right equipment, could have been avoided."

Terri Fitzgerald's story

ON JANUARY 15 this year, David Fitzgerald was admitted to Charleville Base Hospital with severe lower abdominal pain and a fever.

The following day, his wife Terri, arrived to find his bed empty. He had been taken for an X-ray and an ultrasound.

"At about 11am the on-call doctors said, 'oh, there's something there', we will send you to Roma for a CT scan," she said. "After arranging the appointment, they approached me and asked if I was comfortable driving him to Roma for the appointment and then returning to Charleville for the results... that's a six-hour round trip.

"A nurse questioned the doctor about flying David to Roma, but according to him the aircraft was out of action. The nurse asked about transporting him with QAS. He said 'it will cost too much'."

Arriving in Roma almost three hours later, David was urgently taken for a CT scan. After 45 minutes the technician told Terri her husband had been taken to the emergency department. His temperature had spiked to 40.7 due to infection.

"About 4.45pm he went in... I received a call at 12.30 the next morning to say they had removed his severely infected appendix. They cleaned the mess out of his belly and stitched him up."

David's health deteriorated two days later. Terri was called at 6.30am to come to the hospital, before arranging to transport David to Brisbane via RFDS. It was not until 3pm before the ambulance left the hospital to meet the aircraft.

"David was rushed into theatre at the Prince Charles Hospital where surgeons removed part of David's bowel and inserted a stoma, and again drained his belly," she said.

David was discharged from hospital on February 4, but they did not return to Charleville until the 23rd.

Terri sent letters to the Queensland Health Minister, Steven Miles, demanding better treatment.

Demanding action

WARREGO MP Ann Leahy said it stood to reason Charleville and St George were worthy of potentially life-saving CT equipment.

"By providing the CT equipment and trained staff in Charleville and St George, it will save lives, and over time reduce the cost of patients being flown out and the distress for those with serious medical issues who are forced to travel by private car," she said.

"Communities of Longreach and Mareeba both have scanners in their hospitals... it stands to reason Charleville should be in with a fighting chance as the costs and distances are much greater by comparison to Mareeba, and Charleville has a population higher than Longreach.

"It costs approximately $10,000 per patient to fly out of St George for urgent CT scans, and double figures of urgent patients are flown out every year. This doesn't include those who do the 400km private car round trip for their scans."

Ms Leahy has launched petitions calling for CT scanners in St George and Charleville.


To sign the petition, visit:

Or phone 1800 814 479