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Canberra Hospital – They’ll let you wait… until you die.

By Jonathon Reynolds - 7 October 2007 54

The Canberra Times has the headlines today “Wait ends in death“. It appears that a 30 year old male who went to Canberra Hospital was triaged as Category 3 status, and told to take a seat. There were a number of cases ahead of him, and he ended up having a heart attack in his seat whilst he was waiting.The article goes on to say that once it was recognised that he had suffered a cardiac arrest he was resuscitated and moved to intensive care where he later died.

Simon Corbell (the acting Health Minister) is quick in immediately trying to absolve the Government of any responsibility. But lets face it this is a Stanhopian typical tact, when is the Stanhope government ever responsible when things are not going well? I am sure they are going to try and blame the Feds for this problem too!

The ABC Online is also covering the story stating the even the nurses through their union are indicating that problems need to be fixed.

My thoughts and condolences go out the the man’s family, but surely people presenting to A+E should be under observation even if they are waiting their turn to be seen.

I am sure had his cardiac arrest been picked up earlier he would have had a much greater chance of survival – the longer it takes to respond to a heart attack the more severe the damage will be. Refer to this article from The Medical Journal of Australia

[Ed. ABC online has some updates with the public being urged not to overreact and news of futher investigations.]

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54 Responses to
Canberra Hospital – They’ll let you wait… until you die.
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thetruth 11:27 pm 10 Oct 07

I go back to my original premise those that resource and run the hospital system in this country are not held accountable (doing too much with too little) and we as a community expect a grade treatment for c grade dollars (no such thing as a free lunch).

If the management of hospital services were put out to tender (with approriate audits and transition etc) the community would know who is accountable for f’ups and see what level of service that their dollar pays for. The community can then understand that they are paying too little for the level that they expect.

I thank god every night that nurses are so heavily unionised and that collective pay claims mean that crap nurses get paid as much as the most dedicated. It keeps costs down and they help subsidise our health system.

Mutto 7:24 pm 10 Oct 07

Its easy to point the finger at ED. In fact, its the favorite pass-time of many people. Emergency departments, especially the ones in this town, are under intense media and public scrutiny.

But please remember the staff work long irregular hours. The shifts they work tend to be extremely busy. Its uncommon for an ED doctor to have more than a 10 minute break on a 10 hour night shift. If they get that.

Burn out is common in health care workers, and rampant at TCH. ED and hospital staff are physically and mentally exhausted, and emotionally drained. So forgive them if they seem uncaring at times. Believe me, they care, they wouldn’t work in such crappy conditions if they didn’t. They are not in their line of work for fame or fortune, there are far easier paths to these treasures. They are there to make a difference. But they work in a system that works against them.

What are your jobs calbelsam and LIC? When was the last time you worked 7 12 hour night shifts in a row? When was the last time you had to divide your time between two critically ill patients, told someone their loved one was going to die, or cope abuse from drunken fools who can’t understand that people sicker than them need to be seen first?

Please, walk a mile in someones shoes before you judge them.

sepi 9:16 am 09 Oct 07

I’ve said about five times above that I don’t blame the staff, who are working in an underresourced, stressful and underfunded system.

I do think this incident (and the many others in other hospitals) shows that something needs to be done to improve healthcare and hospitals in this country.

captainwhorebags 8:16 am 09 Oct 07

sepi: I’m sure the cold, heartless monsters down at the emergency department would appreciate you dropping in and showing them how it’s supposed to be done.

damnintellectuals 7:03 am 09 Oct 07

Ralph: “Yes, the USA. I’m with thetruth on this one (of course). The US has a great system of vertical integration in the health sector.”

Sorry, but thetruth doesn’t agree with your appraisal. And neither do I. As as person who has experienced both US and Australian health care, Aussie heath care is far more efficient, cost effective and accessible to more people. Example: In Australia, I can call my GP and arrange a consultation the same day. In the US, expect at least a week to pass before the GP will see you. In the US, generally all immediate consultations are directed towards the emergency rooms. I recently spent two hours in an US emergency room. Cost for 2 hours of service: over US$2000.00.

Thetruth: I appreciate your idea but it sounds like your plan creates another level of bureaucracy. I don’t see it lowering costs at all and, besides, what kind of business would see money to be had in such an environment? And although the US system may not have the government oversight that your plan proposes, I am fully aware how private companies find loopholes and use the lobby system to promote their agenda.

sepi 8:47 pm 08 Oct 07

Well they’d want to be trying hard today wouldn’t they.

Sammy 8:42 pm 08 Oct 07

Just had my first experience with The Canberra Hospital in about ten years.

Arrived there at 5:45pm with my wife in a state of dehydration and severe abdominal cramps, after an all-night session of ‘d’s and ‘v’s.

Initial impressions weren’t great. It’s very impersonal, and the triage nurse really doesn’t seem to care, even though she might.

Things improved though, and the nurse who came out to the waiting room was very nice and genuinely caring.

Out of there by 7:45pm with drugs on board, and electrolyte replacement to-go. Must be a record.

A bunch of people who were there before us were still waiting when we left. I feel sorry for them.

barney 5:56 pm 08 Oct 07

I think we need John Howard to pay a visit, and catch our imagination.

caf 3:58 pm 08 Oct 07

I think you’ll find that was President Truman.

thetruth 3:28 pm 08 Oct 07

Alan Greenspan famously had a sign on his desk stating the “buck stops here” so when buck stops on this one whose desk will it be? If the situation is as it has been reported who should front the people of Canberra and explain it?

LIC 2:56 pm 08 Oct 07

I don’t think the staff on duty when these things happen are entirely blameless. Yes, they may be shortstaffed, and there may be other problems, but it would take only one person there to give a rats arse about the guy and someone could have intervened well inside 4 hours, perhaps in time to save him.

calbelsam 2:39 pm 08 Oct 07

I have been to A&E many times. The service has been quit varied. It is easy to blame “the system” but it is the people in this system who can make it work better. From having my GP ring the triage nurse and make arrangements for treatment then being ignored when I arrived to having to take my wife out of A&E in a wheelchair being violently ill with a migraine because the Dr said there was nothing wrong. But the nurse did give her a tray to thow up in. I am suprised more people have not died in A&E through the lack of care and attention displayed by staff. The nurses and doctors deserve all the hell they get. Empathy and caring is part of the job! Maybe they should transfer to the morgue at least their customers would not be annoying them for service.

thetruth 1:15 pm 08 Oct 07

excuse my typos amongst others clearly I meant the dignity of NOT miscarriaging in the toilet

thetruth 1:13 pm 08 Oct 07

The privatisation model I have been talking about is not the same as the one in the US so comparison are moot.

Time for something completely different. The current one is fraught and made for disaster.

On some of the points made since last night:

“As for the miscarriage in the toilet, very traumatising for the people involved but the hospital staff couldn’t have prevented the miscarriage.” – the point here is not whether the miscarriage could have been prevented or not its that there were not enough beds to allow this person the dignity of having to do it in the toilet.

“From my government tender experience I dont’ have confidence that this is the way to get a good outcome. Govt has a lot of procedures around the tender process – they still don’t always get a good result.” Yes agree, but the current mess is not a good result either. i contend that there is no accountability nor proper link between service levels and cost (ie the community expects A grade service for a C grade budget). A tender process would show the community what it costs for their desired level of service.

none of the other models suggested have these two vital missing features.

The community model (libs) may have accountability but this is limited by the lack of a link between funding and service.

The labor plan is an election gimmick because nothing new will happen – the Commonwealth will never take over hospitals and if they do will make a bigger hash of it.

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