Dr Bob not isolated case, says Coffs GP
By BELINDA SCOTT
DOCTOR John Kramer says doctors, as well as families, are being left out of the loop when patients are moved from Coffs Harbour to peripheral public hospitals.
One of Dr Kramer's patients, Dr Bob Brien, was moved from the Coffs Harbour Health Campus to Bellingen Hospital last week without his family being informed ? or his GP.
Dr Kramer said neither he nor Dr Paul Campbell at Bellingen Hospital were informed about Dr Brien's transfer.
He said Dr Campbell was advised of one patient's transfer (not Bob) and then had two patients arrive.
"So there was a breakdown of communication at that level, because he did not have any information about Bob and how to treat him appropriately," Dr Kramer said.
"If it can happen to a a respected former doctor from our area, it can happen to anyone and it raises some other points about the pressure on our public facilities."
Dr Kramer said the problem was a failure of communication, a point acknowledged last week by the general manager of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus, Mrs Margaret Bennett, who said nursing notes showed the hospital had tried to contact Mrs Lee Brien on Monday, but had failed to follow up on Tuesday.
Dr Kramer said this was a common occurrence which pointed to a system failure.
"There are protocols to be followed where patients are to be discharged or transferred and they include notification of the family, the GP and the accepting facility," he said.
Dr Kramer said Dr Brien's case was compounded by the closure of Coffs Harbour's rehabilitation ward over Christmas, which put pressure on other hospital wards.
"We have been told (by the Area Health Service) that won't happen again, but we are moving back into the situation where people are in hospital waiting to get into residential care," he said.
"People get moved out to peripheral hospitals all the time and sometimes we get to hear about it, but often we don't, which causes problems and we have to make representations to the hospital.
"I have a visiting medical officer's (VMO) position at the hospital and when someone is admitted under me I am better able to guide them to the most appropriate destination.
"Bellingen was not appropriate for Bob because of the distance from his family.
He said GPs were frequently not involved by the hospital, yet they had a tremendous amount to contribute which could lead to earlier discharge in 'quite a few' cases.
"Communications are effective when there are good systems in place.
"The staff are very busy and a busy environment is likely to lead to a breakdown in communications.
"Generally speaking the hospital has an extremely able and dedicated nursing staff and Margaret Bennett is a very able manager."