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Australia BYO bandages: inquiry told of ‘horrendous' state of NSW hospitals

23:01  02 february  2021
23:01  02 february  2021 Source:   smh.com.au

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Patients and medical staff across NSW have sounded the alarm about a crisis in the state of country hospitals, telling of wards that look like they've been hit by tornadoes, hospitals requesting you bring your own bandages and doctors trying to mend broken bones over videolink.

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A parliamentary inquiry has been told lives are being endangered by an overburdened system plagued by chronic staff shortages.

The victims include a 92-year-old man sent away from hospital with a broken neck and a Broken Hill man whose cancer went undiagnosed for 15 months while he awaited an urgent colonoscopy.

The situation has become so dire that the Wee Waa Chamber of Commerce has warned a lack of healthcare is "literally killing the town", while Gunnedah Shire Council said its doctors are so overstretched they are effectively "running a crisis medical service".

The claims are contained in the first of about 500 submissions to a parliamentary inquiry into regional and rural healthcare in NSW, published ahead of a public hearing in March.

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The inquiry was announced after stories in The Sydney Morning Herald shone a spotlight on a series of deaths in the Western NSW Local Health District.

Several submissions noted Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics showing 91 avoidable deaths for every 100,000 people in cities, compared to 248 avoidable deaths in remote areas.

NSW Health acknowledged the concerns and said it welcomed the opportunity to participate in the inquiry.

"Of all those patients who pass through our public hospitals, 99.999 per cent will have a positive outcome," a spokesperson said.

"Just 0.001 per cent of all patients discharged from hospital will be involved in a clinical incident which results in serious patient harm, known as a sentinel event."

The spokesperson said the NSW government has built or upgraded more than 130 hospitals and health facilities since 2011, with a further 80 projects under way and more than two-thirds of those in rural and regional areas.

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A further 8300 frontline staff were being added this term of government with 45 per cent going to the regions, the spokesperson said.

The submissions - heavily redacted by the inquiry's staff - include multiple letters from whistleblowing nurses and doctors fearful of retribution from management if they are publicly named.

An anaesthetist from Lismore Base Hospital recounted their shock at the "horrendous" workload of two junior nurses, describing the ward as "looking like a mini-tornado had gone through".

"It would have taken an Olympic effort to get through all that and have clean, pain-free, well-fed and hydrated patients, never mind their medications," the anaesthetist said.

One nurse said the situation was "desperate" at Batemans Bay and Moruya hospitals on the South Coast. The hospitals were so understaffed nurses left their shifts "emotionally and physically shattered".

"You should come down here and shadow us … you'll be incredibly proud of us, but also embarrassed that you are letting us work in these conditions."

Patients in regional areas turn up to the emergency departments where no doctors are physically present, leaving treatment via videolink the only option.

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A woman said her son had been left with a deformity after a nurse at Cobar Hospital had to apply a plaster to his broken hand, while the doctor watched via videolink.

"His hand has healed with a large knuckle protruding from the side," the parent said.

The same resident said her husband was misdiagnosed as having an anxiety attack when he attended Cobar Hospital with blood clots in his lungs.

Condobolin resident Allan Small told the inquiry a virtual doctor in emergency misdiagnosed his appendicitis as gastro.

"This potentially fatal mistake I believe could have been averted if there was a doctor in person," he said.

Coolah hospital has been without a doctor since January, a situation branded a "disaster" by locals.

One community member said they were offered a telehealth doctor when they turned up at the hospital with a lacerated foot.

"I have no idea how the doctor through a screen was going to stitch my foot," they said.

"After over an hour of the nurse trying to stop the bleeding I was sent home with this injury unstitched."

"I feel that this is a totally unacceptable level of healthcare in Australia."

Glen Innes mayor Carol Sparks said a young woman recently died from what was believed to be an inadequate assessment on arriving at the local hospital.

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"People from the city laugh when we say we don't have a doctor at our hospital," she said.

Mid-Western Regional Council said it was "extremely concerned" about the use of telehealth as the default for emergency treatment.

Gunnedah Council surveyed its employees and 91 per cent rated the availability of medical services in the town as "bad" or terrible". General manager Eric Groth said the situation was a handbrake on the region's growth.

One man described waiting 15 months for a colonoscopy at Broken Hill Hospital after an urgent referral due to abnormal test results.

It was only after he turned up bleeding at emergency that he underwent the procedure, which uncovered bowel cancer.

"If this was seen to back in 2019 when it was URGENT, I wouldn't be looking at all this pain, suffering and anguish," he wrote.

Richard Doyle, 92, was sent home from Kempsey Hospital with a broken neck after the doctor misread his X-ray.

His plight was detailed by the Macleay Valley Branch of the ALP, which said: "The hospital buildings are first class but are understaffed and under-resourced."

A woman told the inquiry she had a caesarean in agony at Griffith Base Hospital because the anaesthetic didn't work.

"My anaesthetist gave me the warnings about the possible complications … all the while telling me how tired he was and that he had been on the ward for nearly 24 hours," she said.

She would "never forgive" the hospital for the trauma the ordeal caused.

The inquiry heard Griffith Base Hospital requested another patient's relatives bring their own bandages to dress a leg wound, which they thought "seemed ridiculous".

The Council of the Ageing said some patients were discharged late at night with scant public transport options and unable to afford the expense of a taxi.

https://www.scribd.com/document/493035530/NSW-Parliamentary-Inquiry-Into-Rural-and-Regional-HealthIt was aware of a situation where an older woman began walking five kilometres home until she was picked up by a passer-by.

One complainant took her elderly mother to Gulgong Hospital, where she was seen by three telehealth doctors in three days for an infected bedsore. The third doctor suggested going home and let "nature take its course".

"My mother was a taxpayer her entire life and deserved to be treated like she mattered," the complainant said.

The sentiments were echoed by residents who said they were made to feel undeserving of medical care.

"Please consider us as worthy," said Rhonda Hetherington and her husband. "We are 77 and 73, still working and contributing."

NSW parliamentary inquiry hears rural doctors' and nurses' workloads are crippling staff, harming patients .
A parliamentary inquiry hears rural medical staff cannot take holidays, have to bring sick children to work, and patients are dying amid nurses' and doctors' heavy workload.It was August 2017 when the 74-year old and her husband, John, set off to drive to Perth to see their son and his family.

usr: 1
This is interesting!