MEDICS SENT ME HOME IN AGONY
By BELINDA SCOTT
CHRIS Horton says he was turned away from Coffs Harbour Base Hospital's emergency department, even though he was suicidal with intense pain from a spinal injury.
Nurses and doctors said they could do nothing for him and told him to go home.
Mr Horton said nursing staff treated him with such suspicion he remains convinced they thought he was a drug seeker trying to get a fix and he now wants access to his hospital records.
The former volunteer rescue worker has been battling spinal problems for 14 years following an accident during a sea rescue and can no longer afford private health insurance.
But the man who helped others so readily found no help was available when he urgently needed it himself.
Mr Horton returned to his Woolgoolga home last weekend to recuperate from an emergency operation at Sydney's St Vincent's Public Hospital.
The operation, to relieve pressure on a nerve, was organised by a sympathetic nun following a desperate appeal by his wife and her friend after Mr Horton had failed to find help through the Coffs Coast's public health system, even after a month of agony.
Although the 47-year-old former bulldozer engineer, cyclist and athlete was carrying a CT scan which showed the spinal damage causing the pain, Mr Horton said staff at Coffs Harbour Hospital told him to go home without examining the images. Unable to access a specialist and with his own GP overseas, Mr Horton had turned to the hospital for help.
"It makes me ropeable that he was doing good for people when he got in the accident and then we're treated like that," said his wife, Merilyn Horton, who said she was 'a basket case' before she got help from Sydney.
"His health is so bad he needs to go to casualty every couple of months. An old guy in Sydney with only a few weeks to live himself made Chris promise no one else would suffer the way Chris did ? not everyone has a pushy wife. A lot of people have no one to stand up for them. We'd really like to know why he couldn't get some help up here.
"I'd also like to see the staff at Coffs Harbour sent to St Vincent's to see how they treat all their patients with respect and dignity."
The general manager of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus, Margaret Bennett, said yesterday she had organised a meeting with the Hortons next Monday afternoon and she hoped a full discussion would resolve their issues.
Mrs Bennett also said Mr Horton was welcome to access his own medical records.
While she would not discuss his particular case, Mrs Bennett said chronic pain and illness was a very big burden to carry, case management was critical and the GP was central to that.