The Case That Prompted this Blog
October 3, 2012
Elderly Patient Left to Wet Bed in Hospital Corridor (NSW. AUSTRALIA)
By Matthew Carney
October 2, 2012
An elderly woman was left in a corridor for six hours and told to urinate in her bed when she needed to go to the toilet in a disturbing case of neglect at a major Sydney hospital.
Doctors say the incident at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital points to a system in crisis.
The 89-year-old woman's daughter told ABC1's Lateline that her mother was rushed to the hospital with a serious staph infection early last week.
The daughter, who wants to remain unidentified, says her mother was left on a trolley in a corridor in the emergency department for six hours.
"I'm disgusted, terrified that I might be in the same position one day. Where do you go? And what if she didn't have me as her voice?" she said.
When the elderly patient asked for a bedpan her daughter says a nurse told her to urinate in her clothes in bed.
She was sobbing, she said 'I'm 89-years old, I've paid my taxes all my life, and this is what's happening to me. I have to urinate in the bed.' And her anguish transferred to me and I didn't know which way to turn.
Daughter of a St Vincent's patient
"She was sobbing, she said 'I'm 89-years old, I've paid my taxes all my life, and this is what's happening to me. I have to urinate in the bed'," she said.
"And her anguish transferred to me and I didn't know which way to turn."
The daughter says her mother was left for two hours in the same bed sheets. She says her mother then asked for painkillers.
"She was in extreme pain, was given none of her medication," she said.
"When I told them what medication she was on, a certain painkiller, they said 'we don't use that in emergency because it's too expensive'."
St Vincent's says the system was under stress when the 89-year-old patient entered the hospital and a full investigation will be undertaken.
"The easy answer would be that the hospital was extremely busy at the time, and it was; clearly there was a lot of acute and complex patients who were presenting to the emergency department," spokesperson David Faktor said.
"But that doesn't absolve ourselves of extending just basic levels of care to distressed patients."
The daughter of the patient says the hospital was chronically understaffed.
St Vincent's has apologised to the family, but says it cannot comment on whether this incident is symptomatic of a wider problem.
"I think anyone in those circumstances would be most significantly humiliated," Mr Faktor said.
"But I think the second emotion would be very angry and disappointed and we, as a society, deserve better than that.
"We as a hospital certainly aim to provide care that is leaps and bounds better than that."
System in crisis
Brian Owler, president of the NSW branch of the Australian Medical Association, says the public hospital system is in crisis.
"It's a symptom of a hospital system - whether it's New South Wales or any other state - that's under enormous stress and pressure," he said.
"It's a result of underinvestment in infrastructure of health care, right across the country. Not just governments in place now but governments that have gone before them."
The AMA says emergency departments do not have enough beds to cope with increasing demand and budget cuts are making the situation much worse.
"Having cuts on top of that to a system that's already under stress means that, whether you make the cuts to the back line or not, the frontline clinical services are always going to be affected, particularly in a system that's already under stress, and where there's no surplus jobs that exist in particular in NSW Health," Dr Owler said.
The New South Wales Government rejects the claim that the health system is in crisis.
In a written statement NSW Health Minister Gillian Skinner says she will be redirecting $2.2 billion in savings to frontline health services.
SOURCE: ABC, Australia
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