The family of a dead man spent almost a week searching for him after being told by a Victorian hospital that he had been discharged.
But he was in the mortuary all along.
Geelong's University Hospital is this morning being asked to answer questions after reports of a blunder involving a man in his 50s who died after a medical emergency at a Geelong cafe on September 20.
Melbourne radio station 3AW spoke with the man's family this morning who say the false discharge report was first relayed to the cafe owner who had called to check on the man's welfare, news.com.au reports.
The man had died in hospital but the cafe owner was told by Barwon Health he had been released. According to 3AW's Neil Mitchell, the cafe owner called the man's sister to relay the news.
She then spent five full days trying to track her brother down. Police called the hospital three times to inquire about his whereabouts. Eventually, after almost six days, the man's sister was told by police that her brother was dead.
"It's evidence of a very distressing stuff-up in the hospital system," Mitchell said this morning.
He said the "six days of hell" for the dead man's sister started on Saturday, 24 hours after he had already died.
"She tried to ring him at home. No answer. Unusual. He didn't call back. Highly unusual. So she drove from her home in the outer south east to his flat in Geelong. Nobody there," Mitchell told listeners this morning.
"So she called the hospital. They confirmed he'd been discharged the previous Friday. She called the police. They broke into the flat. No sign of anything.
"Police rang the hospital. Told he'd been discharged on the Friday. Police started a missing persons report and started looking for him. Three times at least they called the hospital.
"On Wednesday or Thursday, police finally found an answer. They discovered the man had not been discharged. He was, in fact, dead.
"Somehow, somewhere in the system, the hospital confused a dead man in their morgue with a man being discharged and sent home.
"The family's gone through six days of hell thinking a sick man's gone missing. It's hurtful, it's wasteful, it's cruel, it's incompetent, it's deeply distressing for the family."
News.com.au has approached Barwon Health for comment. In a statement, a spokesperson said they "unreservedly apologise for the distress caused by the delay and the manner in which the family was notified of their relative's death".
"Barwon Health has been in contact with Victoria Police and we are awaiting advice regarding the internal communication between the police involved in the initial notification to police at the time of the patient's death and the police involved in the coroner's case.
"Barwon Health has confirmed that on 20 September, a man was brought to University Hospital Geelong after a medical emergency and subsequently died.
"The staff in the Emergency Department made multiple attempts to contact the next of kin listed in the patient's previous medical record. The police were notified at the time of the patient's death.
"As the case was an unexpected death and the relatives could not be contacted, the matter was referred to the coroner. Once referred to the coroner, it is the role of the police and the coroner to work together to notify the family.
"The patient was transferred to the coroner's mortuary in Melbourne the day after his death.
"The police also attempted to contact the next of kin, and we are advised that they attended the last known address of the next of kin.
"The Emergency Department staff also contacted the patient's listed GP."