System fails mum

By BELINDA SCOTT A DEATH in the family is always traumatic. But for James Hand, the death of his mother in Bellingen Hospital on Mother's Day this year was part of a series of shocks that continue four months on. The Coffs Harbour tiler believes that although his mother was elderly and ill, her May death was due to the health system failing her ? a system to which his mother had devoted her life. Mr Hand is now speaking out in the hope that families will not be subjected to the trauma that his family has had to endure. Lynette McLeod was a career nurse and a Salvation Army officer who moved to Coffs Harbour after she retired to be close to her son and his family. The 67-year-old breast cancer sufferer was hospitalised in April after she collapsed at St Joseph's Nursing Home and spent more than five weeks in three public hospitals ? in Sydney, Coffs Harbour and Bellingen, before dying in Bellingen on May 9. During her time in hospital, Mrs McLeod developed pressure area and urinary tract infections and septicaemia. Mr Hand said while she was in hospital her care was compromised by poor communication within the hospital system and between the hospital and family. In spite of attending a meeting at Coffs Harbour Health Campus with hospital staff in April, he said his family was not told his mother was being moved to Bellingen, 30-minutes drive from her family, and Bellingen Hospital staff were not given the clinical information they required to care for Mrs McLeod. He said he did not know his mother had developed serious infections and septicaemia until he saw her death certificate. In letters to Mr Hand and his sister, the Mid North Coast Area Health Service has apologised for a number of failures in the care of Mrs McLeod. These included a failure to renew dressings on bed sores; delays in changing her urinary catheter; poor communication between the hospital and the family; and no palliative care follow up at Bellingen. The executive officer and director of nursing at Bellinger River District Hospital, Vince Carroll, told the family that the Area Health Service agreed there were a number of issues about Mrs McLeod's experience in Coffs Harbour and Bellingen that required follow up and review. The clinical services manager at Coffs Harbour Health Campus, Dr Theresa Beswick, also agreed to follow up any issues. Mr Carroll said yesterday that it was not unusual for patients to be transferred from Coffs Harbour to Bellingen for ongoing care of a palliative nature. He said he was now fast-tracking the development of Bellingen District Hospital as a pilot site for an End of Life Pathway through the MNC Pallia- tive Care project.

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