Hospital wait a real pain

By BELINDA SCOTT

STEVE Atkinson has had his faith in modern medicine and the health system severely shaken.

Mr Atkinson is still recovering from the problems caused when his appendix ruptured while he waited for 15 hours in the accident and emergency department of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus more than four months ago.

What should have been a routine appendectomy operation followed by a rapid recovery for the 43-year-old Upper Orara resident turned into a serious and complex operation, an 11-day stay in hospital, follow-up tests and continuing problems which he has been told may continue for many more months.

Mr Atkinson has had to take time off work and still experiences pain and he cannot lift heavy weights or do strenuous tasks around his country home. He is still receiving treatment and attending follow-up doctor's appointments.

He does not have private health insurance and is finding his medical expenses such a heavy burden he has scripts he has not been able to afford to have filled.

He says the new Medicare Safety Net has not been much help because the threshold is an annual one. As his problems began on September 22 last year his expenses have been spread over two calendar years.

What makes Mr Atkinson even more bitter is that he has found there is effectively no financial or legal help available for 'ordinary people' like him, who cannot afford to take his case to court but need help with their medical expenses.

In fact he has found no one even wants to answer specific questions about exactly what happened to him while he was in hospital, let alone offer him an apology.

And this is despite the fact that the new Health Care Complaints Commission agrees that the care given to Mr Atkinson 'at the Coffs Harbour Health Campus was not optimal and that ideally you would have been rapidly assessed, given analgesia and an appendectomy expedited the night of presentation'.

Mr Atkinson takes issue with several points in the Health Care Complaints Commission's report, saying that contrary to the report, he did not arrive late at night; he was extremely distressed for a long period before being given any analgesic, and neither he nor his partner could recall him being given any intravenous saline or antibiotics in A&E.

The Commission offered Mr Atkinson a reconciliation meeting.

The general manager of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus, Margaret Bennett, said the hospital had agreed to conciliation, but the health service had been advised Mr Atkinson had declined conciliation.

However Mr Atkinson said last week he had reconsidered his position and had decided to accept the offer in his quest to get answers to his questions.

He wants to know exactly why he did not receive the Health Commission's 'ideal' care for his condition: rapid assessment; analgesia and 'an appendectomy expedited the night of presentation'.

Given that his care was not ideal, he particularly wants to know how the hospital and on-call surgeon arrived at the decision not to operate that night; whether he ever received intravenous antibiotics while he was waiting, as his surgeon and the Commission said he should have, and if not, why not?

And if he received three litres of intravenous saline as the hospital has claimed, why did the anaesthetist say he was severely dehydrated at 10am?



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