Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Have you heard the QLD Premier has been "walking a day in our shoes"?  Apparently she’s been demonstrating how down with her peeps she is, by taking on everyday jobs she normally wouldn’t  touch with a ten foot barge pole have a chance to partake in.

One of those jobs was shadowing a hardworking Wardsperson at a large Brisbane Hospital.  Good for you Anna.    Unfortunately I doubt you learned anything from that experience other than, shit these shoes are killing me and Jesus, this hospital coffee is rubbish. 

To have a true hospital experience, you need to have a vested interest.  You need to feel the mothers heart somersaulting in her chest because her 2 year old baby is about to endure a lumbar puncture for suspected meningitis.  You need to be listening to the concerns of the surgeon who knows he cannot save the child he is operating on, because the window of opportunity to do so was missed due to red tape.  You need to sit with the nurses who are abused because the systems and staffing they are working under are inadequate.  Simply walking around the wards learns you nothing. 

I’ve had a fair bit to do with the Gold Coast Hospital.  You can read about my open letter to Anna Bligh, last year, HERE.

On Monday night, I got to unexpectedly revisit the place that at one stage, felt like my second home.  I was on the computer, doing some work when Maddison, ten, already feeling a little off, lay down next to me and started to shiver uncontrollably.  She was burning up, yet her hands and feet were freezing.  Then I checked her tummy.  Light purple rash.   Oh god oh god oh god. Hospital – Stat.

I pushed her into the passager seat and started to drive. There she was dozing in and out of consciousness, there I was freaking out, seemingly getting every single red light, whilst envisioning the worst case scenario. We’ve all heard the stories.  The ones where their child has gotten a cold, next thing they are on life support, fighting for their life against Meningococcal, all because Mum didn’t read the warning signs in time.  Over reacting?  Sure, I’m a parent.  If I didn't over react when my children get sick, I wouldn't be breathing.

So we walk into the Emergency Department.  It’s busy.  Apparently Monday nights always are.  We present at the window, I explain to the nurse behind the glass my concerns.  She appears non-plussed.  In fact the nurse behind her is making a joke about some donor eyeballs that a courier is signing in.  Presumably for a corneal transplant.  Some poor, yet giving soul has just donated these vital organs, and she is making jokes.  Nice, real nice.

Anyway, we were directed to sit down and wait for our name to be called.

Directly next to us was a young girl, perhaps a little older than Maddison, who threw up repeatedly.  Behind us was an older gentleman who more than likely was looking for a place to spend the night, equipped with his luggage.  Off to the side were two brand new babies.  In all the time we were there, I didn’t hear those babies cry once.  There is something very unnatural about that.  In between these babies, was a slightly older baby with some serious croup. 

A young man, obviously related to one of the babies seriously lost his shit at the nurses.  He was distressed it was taking so long for his baby to be seen to.  He simply could not control his basic, primal instinct, which was to protect and care for his little one.  Granted, he should not have sworn.  Sure, he should have settled down, but he was scared and perhaps not equipped to deal with his fear.   He was unceremoniously turfed out by security. 

There was a man who had stuck something in his eye, a guy with an obviously damaged leg and a seriously limp toddler.  And a line up at the admissions window three deep at any one time.

We were there for three hours.  At no stage were we seen.  Nor were the babies or the child with the cough. 

This to me, just doesn't sit right.  Would we all have been better off ringing an ambulance?  Would this be abusing a vital service?  Should we care when the alternative is this waiting room? After three hours, we were told it would be at least another 3 before we were seen.  I took her home. 

I guess I just can’t fathom how a child with all the signs outlined on health websites that indicate Meningococcal,  wasn’t seen to immediately.   I don’t understand why a system isn’t in place that sees all patients by medical staff at least within half and hour to determine the severity of each case.    Clearly this would require more staff and more room.  I really do hope that the Gold Coast’s new hospital currently being built, has factored this in. Somehow, I doubt it.

In fact, why wouldn’t QLD Health and/or the Federal Government make the current Gold Coast Hospital into a dedicated Childrens Hospital?  Surely we are now a large enough city to warrant this?    

Politicians,  why is common sense so elusive to you guys?


life in a pink fibro said...

Oh Bern, I hate the emergency department. I confess I've never had an experience as bad as that - every time I've presented, we've been seen in timely fashion but, um, once it was a strangulated hernia, once it was major breathing difficulties, once it was... you get the picture. They seem to wait until you're in serious distress before deeming you worthy of attention - mostly because they don't have room to fit you in. I'm so sorry you had that experience. I hope your daughter is okay.

Sarah (Maya_Abeille) said...

OMG. What a terrible story. How worrying for you. Did you end up taking Maddie home and she got better on her own? At what stage did you decide to take her home?

Our local hospital has a few flaws but I must say that I've never had to wait long to at least be triaged by a nurse. The last time we were there for Alex's asthma (last week) a woman sitting next to us wanting pain medication cut in front of us when they called Alex's name and did her block at the triage nurse about wanting to see some one for about 5 minutes, stopping us from being seen. The staff were safe behind a glass partition but the rest of us were alongside this woman who seriously looked as though she was going to blow a gasket. I had Alex in a pram (because of his broken leg) so would have struggled to get away from her had I needed to (especially since the waiting room was crowded) and at no stage did any security (or any one) come near us to diffuse the situation.

The crazy lady was screaming that she was going to catch a cab home and call an ambulance because that way she would get seen quicker (seems like that's been her experience in the past). The nurse argued that it would make no difference but if crazy lady was right, what a terribly backward system and waste of resources.

I have heard many stories similar to yours and whilst I am grateful to always be taken in as a priority with Alex every time (4 or so times in the past 12 months); it also alarms me that he was bad enough to be seen as such a high priority! Once we took Maya with croup and the triage nurse gave us 1ml of prednisone and said we could wait to see a doctor but it would probably be hours, or we could go home. (we took her implicit advice and went home that time).

In Maddie's case it seems mystifying to me that some one medical couldn't have seen her pronto and allayed your fears at least!

Lucy said...

Scary. And you make your point so well.

The whole heatlh funding debate (debarcle?) between federal & state SHITS ME OFF.

MultipleMum said...

Emergency departments are hideous places. I spent 5 hours waiting at one of the designated Children's hospitals in Sydney with my twins earlier this year. Just me and 2 thirteen month olds from 5pm -10pm (it was delightful as you can imagine).

No-one even spoke to us in that time. Turned out my daughter had a fractured leg (which my GP had suspected and had requested an X-ray on the admission letter!). Honestly I was gobsmacked!

We eventually got out of there by about 11.30pm. Someone would have to be dying for me to go through that again.

I hope your daughter is okay and the rash has subsided?

Mandi said...

Oh yes we have had similar experiences!
I was taken by ambulance to our local hospital where I was taken out to the waiting room (!?) then straight into one of the cardiac beds and hooked up to a monitor, seen by nurses but after 6 hours STILL no Doctor!!
Can you believe it? I discharged myself at 3am and went home to my kids!

I have also sat at the childrens hospital in Emergency over the years for more hours than I would care to count among 4 children!! We waited with my son who had a broken arm and a letter of admission for hours & were finally xrayed after midnight where he was admitted and spent the night as the arm was too badly swollen to plaster.
Have waited at the same childrens hospital with a child screaming in pain with suspected appendicitis till 2am when he was xrayed, thankfully that time the nurse found a trolley for us to sleep on inside the emergency ward not out in the waiting room like the other poor parents.
Something needs to be done about the state of our hospitals urgently!
If its giving the funding back to the federal governments then DO IT!!
Its a joke! Hope your daughter was ok...

Kylie L said...

Bern, what a terrible story :( How horrible for you- hope Maddie is better now.
I have to say that the big hospital near where I live in Melbourne (The Austin) has had a dedicated paediatric ER for the past ten years and it is *magic*. It's calmer, it's full of age appropraite stuff, and best of all the staff are paediatricians who know what they're doing. My sis is also a paediatrician, and on her advice I would never take my kids to a non-paediatric ER. Of course, I'm lucky I have one 5 mins away, and the Royal Children's 15 mins away... but I utterly support your campaign and I hope your voice is haerd. xxx

Glen said...

What a nightmare - I hate A&E, they are the same all over the world - the staff are brilliant - it's getting to see them that is the problem :-( I hope Maddison is on the mend

livinglifeasme said...

Oh Bern that is my worst nightmare. We always go to St Andrews Private Hospital Priority Emergency Care - it is way more expensive, but we've been at least 10 times now and always get seen within 1/2 hour. It is worth the money, even when we haven't really had it to spare. Unfortunately our Public Health system is lousy and bordering on third world. Too many idiots in charge!

Thea said...

How terrifying for you!
You are so right.
It is so wrong!!
Glad Maddie is OK. xx

Sue (Just_Leithal) said...

You should send this blog through to Anna.

Anonymous said...

My daughter then 7 had similar symptoms to your daughter with high temp and purple rash developing from the neck down. My gp called an ambulance and as soon as we arrived at the children's hospital in Sydney the staff drew circles around the spots and left us for 4 hours. What these circles were for was never explained. I have never felt so scared and powerless. Fortunately my daughter was fine and we were allowed to go home. I'm glad to hear your daughter was ok too.

Melissa said...

OMG! Is she alright? Do you know what was wrong with her?

Seraphim said...

Bern I hope your little one is ok now. We have a dedicated kids hospital here and we've been seen quite quickly each time. What you described sounds like a total nightmare. I just can't understand how this could be happening in this day and age. I sincerely hope Anna reads this.

Just a girl said...

I hope your daughter is ok
i rememeber my young sister get going back and forth for months and they kept telling mum she is overracting and only has a cold
finally on thr 5th time they tested her and she had that influenza A that was going round.

Jen said...

That is so scary! Is your daughter ok? Here we have a 24 hour clinic which I take the kids to before ER, I have also waited hours with the kids on the past at ER. It's just not right. The only thing I'll give them here I'd that they triage you. So at least you see a nurse, they take the temp etc and check the problem then you wait for the doc and they give you 'advice' if they feel it isn't too serious.

Kristy said...

One of my biggest pet peeves about any business, including education or hospitals, is when the "powers that be" seem to forget that, ultimately, we are not just businesses. We are all in the business of PEOPLE.

Maxabella said...

Oh god, don't get me started, Bern! It makes my heart break just thinking of all those parents scared out of their minds being treated like that!! My S-I-L was a registrar in the emergency department of Royal North Shore Hospital for six months and the stories she would tell would make your toes curl. Although, it was always interesting to hear the stories from the perspective of the doctors who are powerless to do anything about the system either. It nearly wrecked her. x

Christine O said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I recently had a smilliar experience at the Townsville hospital, I was forced to sit in ED from 7pm until 630pm the following day ... I saw a doctor twice in this time for an infection that they caused during surgery. My infection was not picked up because I was discharged within 8 hours of my appendix surgery. Something needs to be done and quickly because I am now of the view that I WILL NOT go to ED again unless I have a major accident. This is not how any one should feel about a hosptial system. Sadly if seems to effect everyone, maybe less money spent on fancy bridges and tunnels and more on health Anna

Jodie at Mummy Mayhem said...

I love that you're on to this, Bern. It's just not good enough what happens in our hospitals...all throughout Australia. More can always be done.

Glad Maddison is ok. How scary!


Mandi said...

Not really an emergency or casualty ward thing but there is something very wrong with our hospitals when a 15 year old boy is discharged from the Sydney childrens hospital 2 days after major surgery for a hip replacement!! 2days people! With a fever of 38 and having only been taken off the morphine drip that day!! Mum got told if anything happens just bring him back to emergency!!

Jane said...

Aww, I hope Maddison is OK!

I despise emergency departments. Hate 'em. I've only been twice (and never as a patient, thankfully, only accompanying friends), but both times I waited for 3 or 4 hours before either giving up or finally being seen by a doc.

I sat in the waiting room looking at all the desperately sick babies and old people (as opposed to my drunk friend with a minor cut to the head.... ) and I wondered how more people don't actually die in the waiting room as a result of having to wait for so long to see a doctor.

Something needs to be done.

Miss Keira said...

I've slept on the floor of an emergency ward before, until the nurses got me a second chair so I could lay down. That particular incident, I was then taken back because they overlooked things and were too quick to discharge me.

I guess it's why I now have private health insurance.

Wombat Central said...

Our pediatric ED seems to move slightly better than the adult one here. How scary for you and everyone in that ED. Is your daughter okay?

Bronnie and family said...

You're right, it's ridiculous ... and scary. Have spent many a scary night/day in the ER. Where kids involved also take them to the public kids' ER rather than private hospital ... which may see them sooner, but the kids' ER has paediatricians etc, and are better with kid problems. I have found that in real emergencies - like when my then 14-month-old had what we suspected to be pneumoccocal or meningococcal, we were rushed to the top of the list and seen and him treated promptly. (Turned out to be pneumococcal septicaemia, and yes, could have been fatal or left him with serious disabiloities).
When he had a suspected broken neck more recently, we were also seen straight away.
It's only the non-urgent things - like when he sucked a sultana up his nose (I know .. ) that we've had to wait.
Hope Maddie is better xo

A Farmer's Wife said...

EDs are very scary. They are hard work for both the staff and the patients.

Hi from the Fibro!

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

I remember this post! Waiting is always multiplied by about 40 when you're in the state of panic that you have to be in to drag you into Casualty. I just hate it. Here's hoping none of us back there again soon.

Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro.

Jodi Gibson said...

What a horrible experience. There is no over-reacting to illness when you are a parent. I would rather over-react than think of the alternatives.
I feel we are lucky here in regional victoria with out hospital. The waiting times have never been long and when I have been there with the kids screaming or sick we get seen straight away at least by the Triage nurse.
We need to spend more money on our hospitals. Full Stop.

(PS rewinding at the Fibro)

Tenille @ Help!Mum said...

Public hospitals are struggling across the country. Many NSW hospitals were threatened by a lack of basic supplies last year, when creditors got sick of waiting to be paid. The system is so under-resourced and/or mismanaged, it's scary.

Photographer Mum said...

That's dodgy, I have to say though that my experience of the public health system has so far been pretty good. I have been in and out of hospital 12 times in 7 months last year with two of my children and have been seen immediately (usually because it's the middle of the night), but on 2 occasions I had to go and it was a peak time and we weren't seen for 2-3 hours. I went home in the end because it was just ridiculous.
I hope your daughter is ok, that would have been incredibly frightening.

Being Me said...

Very, very scary stuff. I was actually told by someone at the hospital last time I took my daughter (she used to have fainting episodes as a baby and couldn't be roused out of them - wanna talk scary shit!? - they were never explained but she seems to have grown out of them) that I should just call an ambulance "next time", whenever I was heading to hospital with something serious like that. Because, although it was frightening, yeah... I had to sit with my limp 2yr-old for TWO hours, who stayed limp and unresponsive that whole time, and asked to "keep an eye on her". Ah. Well, apart from "She's not waking up and her eyes are rolling back in her head", I couldn't tell them more.

So. Call an ambulance. You get in straight away and seen to straight away - usually. Certainly faster than the poor souls sitting in A&E, anyway. That's a tip direct from the proverbial horse's mouth. I don't think that's abusing a vital service at all. If you're a member, you're paid up. If it's your child... Mind you, ambulances don't always get there on time either do they?? Screwed all round.

(Rewinding from the Fibro, of course x)

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