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Spotlight on hospital care at Indigenous death inquest

Stephanie Gardiner -

Ricky Hampson Jr was a protector, a big brother known as "Dougie" who always looked for ways to bring his family joy.

"Dougie was our firstborn, he was always happy," his father Rick Hampson Sr recalled.

"There was something special about him, he was there for everybody - the younger people, the older people.

"He was amazing."

But when the 36-year-old needed his own protector in August 2021, the Hampson family believe he was tragically let down.

An inquest will this week examine the death of the Kamilaroi-Dunghutti man, who died of perforated duodenal ulcers less than 24 hours after being discharged from Dubbo Hospital in western NSW.

Mr Hampson Jr went to the emergency department in extreme pain on August 14 after feeling a tearing sensation in his abdomen and hearing a popping sound while walking on the street.

He was quickly sedated and slept on-and-off for 18 hours, before being discharged with painkillers and a direction to drink water.

His friends have told the Hampson family it took him five hours to make the short trip back to where he was staying, with some saying he was seen lying down at a bus shelter in pain.

He made it back to the house, but could not be woken on the morning of August 16.

Mr Hampson Sr believes race was one of several factors that stopped his son getting appropriate care.

The family say hospital staff also dismissed Mr Hampson Jr because he admitted using cannabis and his records listed his next of kin as a jail he'd left the year before.

"It's heartbreaking ... it's not humane, he desperately needed life-saving treatment," Mr Hampson Sr told AAP.

"It's destroyed us as a family."

A spokeswoman for Western NSW Local Health District said it would not comment while the case was before the coroner.

"We offer our sincere condolences to the family of Ricky Hampson Jnr," the spokeswoman said.

The case has been compared to that of Naomi Williams, a Wiradjuri woman who died of septicaemia in 2016 after presenting to hospital in Tumut at least 18 times in seven months.

Experts told the inquest into Ms Williams' death there was evidence of a link between Aboriginality and less treatment, with data showing Indigenous patients receive 30 per cent fewer procedures.

Deputy State Coroner Harriet Grahame found the treatment of the 27-year-old pregnant woman was "consistent with a pattern" and recommended the health district boost its Aboriginal workforce.

George Newhouse, chief executive of the National Justice Project which is representing the Hampson family, said it was always shocking when the healthcare system lets down a patient.

"But it's particularly shocking when bias or prejudice is a contributor to that failure and it leads to death or harm," he said.

The health system could improve care by leading cultural change, providing better staff training and collecting data on incidents of racism, Mr Newhouse said.

The Hampson family hopes the inquest will deliver justice for their son and ensure the hospital system is safe.

"We want Indigenous people to know they're going to get the right treatments and not be judged on who they are or what colour their skin is," Mr Hampson Sr said.

"Justice and change, that's what we're after."

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

Stephanie Gardiner - AAP


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