Staples close the skin on Chris Horton?s back following a pain-relieving spinal operation of foraminotomy, laminectomy and nerv
Staples close the skin on Chris Horton?s back following a pain-relieving spinal operation of foraminotomy, laminectomy and nerv

Some gain from Chris? pain



CHRIS Horton's spine will become an object lesson to help teach emergency department staff the importance of identifying new problems in people with existing conditions.

And the importance of that lesson was underlined this week by Mr Horton's wife, Merilyn Horton.

Mrs Horton said it had taken until a meeting on Monday this week for hospital staff to understand that the problem that had sent Mr Horton to the hospital in acute pain on April 17 was completely new and nothing to do with the chronic health problems he suffered following an accident 14 years earlier.

Mr Horton was in pain from a compressed nerve in his spine from April 17 until May 22, when a neurosurgeon operated on him at Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital. An appeal from a nun allowed Mr Horton to bypass the public health system in Coffs Harbour after he was unable to get help at the local hospital in spite of feeling suicidal from his pain.

"I know they're very sorry, but the very points I wanted to make were completely lost on them," Mrs Horton said. "If it happened again, I'd put hin straight on the plane for Sydney."

She said the system of passing information from triage nurse to resident doctor to specialist was open to a lot of communication problems.

However she said she and her husband were reassured to see that his medical records showed staff had not considered he was 'doctor shopping' or a drug seeker, although the records showed a doctor had examined him in emergency, which she said was not the case.

The manager of Coffs Harbour Health Campus, Margaret Bennett, said she and the director of the Coffs Harbour Health Campus Emergency Department, Dr Alan Tankel, had been pleased to meet the Hortons and allay some of their concerns. She said they had apologised to them for any distress they had experienced.

Mrs Bennett said with Mr Horton's permission, his case would now be used as an emergency department case review teaching exercise, challenging clinicians to be very vigilant for new symptoms in people with chronic and complex conditions. She said it was usually much easier to resolve complaints and concerns face to face and a meeting with hospital staff was always on offer for people unhappy with their treatment.



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