Hospital headaches: What’s going on in our public health system? 113



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Hospitals have been in the spotlight recently and this week two more cases have surfaced, highlighting that there may be some flaws in our system.

Baby Asha was treated at Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane, after receiving burns at Nauru detention centre. She has since been nursed back to health but staff are refusing to discharge her, fearing that she will be deported.

Protesters have also gathered outside the hospital to fight for baby Asha, but now that she is well, should she be taking up a bed that is needed by Australian children who are actually sick?

The mother of a chronically ill three-year-old boy told the Courier Mail the hospital was discharging her son, Matthew, due to a shortage in beds. “A doctor told me there was a bed shortage and I needed to take him home. I stomped my feet and said it was unfair that baby Asha was allowed to have a bed” she said.

After demanding a bed for her sick child he was allowed to stay, “… a gastro doctor said Matthew needed further treatment and would not be released.”
Why were staff so quick to discharge a sick Australian child, but fighting to keep a healthy baby in hospital?
Justine Christerson, a child health advocate, told CM, “Asha could easily be housed in home accommodation under the care of the hospital.”
In an other incident Sydney’s St Vincent Hospital has come under fire for treating cancer patients with the wrong dosage of chemotherapy.
The ABC reports that up to 70 cancer patients have been treated with a, “less than the recommended dose of a chemotherapy drug.”

Patients being treated at Sydney’s prestigious St Vincent’s Hospital received the wrong dosages for head or neck cancer. This error first began in 2012 but St Vincent’s Hospital have only, just now, begun contacting surviving patients and their families.

Dr John Grygiel, one of the hospitals medical oncologists, is said to have giving patients a lower dose of the drug, carboplatin, which has different dosages according to individual patient’s kidney test, age and sex.

The ABC reports that, “for the most common head and neck cancer treatments, the dose is usually between 200 and 300 milligrams. Yet Dr Grygiel prescribed the same flat, 100 mg for all head and neck patients.”

Dr Richard Gallagher, director of cancer services at St Vincent’s, spoke about the incident on ABC’s 7.30, “I think that he felt that the dose he prescribed was genuinely effective and caused less side effects for patients” he said,

“I’m not happy that this has gone on. I freely admit there’s clearly a breakdown in clinical governance.”

Interestingly, Dr Gallagher would not disclose whether any staff raised the matter internally at the time, vaguely answering, “I don’t know. I’m led to believe that there may have been discussions with the medical oncologist, but it’s never been discussed with anybody else.”

In August of 2015 the hospital accepted that an error had occurred and began conducting an internal investigation. A statement by St Vincent’s to 7.30 claims that the under-dosage, “does not appear to have had any type of significant negative impact on the patients’ outcome”.

St Vincent’s also claimed that no additional treatment had been required, although four patients relapsed – a rate they claim  is within normal expectations. These claims were confirmed last week by an independent investigator.

Dr Gallagher told 7.30 he was very upset by the issue, but they are only contacting patients who have experienced recurrent disease.

“We’re working out how to do it. I mean, we’re not going to tell people at the end of an outpatients clinic that there’s been a problem with chemotherapy,” said Dr Gallagher.

“We need to involve social workers, we need to involve people to have a discussion with them.”

On 7.30 Dr Gallagher claims that Dr Grygeil was discipled but allowed to continue to treat patients during the independent investigation, “[Dr Grygiel] has continued to treat patients in a lesser role, under greater supervision,” he said.

What is going on in our hospitals? Do we need more funding? Tell us your thoughts…

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  1. I dislike the anti asylum seeker overtone in this article. I thought that “STARTS AT SIXTY” were better than this.

    5 REPLY
    • Tell me are you just as passionate about our homeless soldiers & older Aussies in desperate need of care ?

    • Tell me are you just as passionate about our homeless soldiers & older Aussies in desperate need of care ?

    • Also would the same attitude apply to an Australian child with less than ideal home circumstances?

    • Dianne Morgan why is it an either or, I suspect most of those who care about one care about them all. An Australian child being discharged from hospital would not necessarily be sent straight back to a remote town if the time to readmit that child to hospital if something went wrong was too great. Post hospital care would be put in place.

    • What I am worried about is if they let this baby stay will others start to burn and cause injury to their children to get to stay.
      Believe me it will happen just like opening the boarders and letting people smugglers thrive.The old saying build it and they will come.
      Maybe if we let this family stay we will have way more cases.
      Dont allow this to happen bleeding hearts or you could cause an epidemic of burnt children that you have created.
      Do you want that on your hands like the thousands that perished at sea with the people smuggling absurdity of years gone by?

  2. Yes our hospital system is in disrepair.I think the older doctors still have God like syndrome, only this week the eminent neurosurgeon Dr Teo said as much with Nick Xenephon launching an enquiry into what is happening.Dr Teo feels the need for a Royal Commission..I for one go without to have private health insurance.I also believe that hospitals will not release any patient if they are at risk and have no safe environment to return to.However I do question, if we dont have enough resources for our current growing population of 24 million, why on earth are we hell bent on allowing immigration.

  3. Yes our hospital system is in disrepair.I think the older doctors still have God like syndrome, only this week the eminent neurosurgeon Dr Teo said as much with Nick Xenephon launching an enquiry into what is happening.Dr Teo feels the need for a Royal Commission..I for one go without to have private health insurance.I also believe that hospitals will not release any patient if they are at risk and have no safe environment to return to.However I do question, if we dont have enough resources for our current growing population of 24 million, why on earth are we hell bent on allowing immigration.

    9 REPLY
    • Suzanne sadly I know of some one who had a major cancer operation at the age of 84 and was told they would have to leave the hospital less than 36 hours later because it was a long week end and they wanted every one out of the hospital so they didn’t have to pay extra wages for long week end. This person had to pack their own bag and sit and wait for some one to pick them up. They came from the country and they didn’t even ask if they had somewhere to go. this was a private hospital. and the patient had paid private health for over 50 years. I watched that day as car after car pulled up at the front door picking up patients in their pj’s. This was about 4 years ago in Ballarat, and I wondered then where our health system was going. Very scary but I still feel that you need to have your private health as there are so many people on waiting lists to have operations. I think we have to understand Australia of old is well and truely gone.

    • Wow…I am so sorry to hear that Robyn…I have a chronic illness and because of my private insurance I am able to keep my health care provider and there is always a hospital bed available…36 hours…for an 84 year old…talk about picking on the vulnerable…its very sad isnt it, our parents and grandparents fought so hard for universal health care…I hope this was a one of…my experience has been different.

    • Suzanne sadly its not but I wont go into the details. But I to have a chronic illness and spent 4 months in hospital 2 years ago. I went into the public system but used my private health which gives the public system more funding. I was told that had I been in a private hospital I would have been thrown out a lot earlier than I was, and that the private hospital did not have the equipment to handle my complaint. Also the private hospitals dont have the same nurse ratio as the public system. I will always keep my private health but I know private hospitals are more rigid with their spending so although you might get a bed, you will never get to warm the sheets ( so to speak)

    • Well truly I have been hospitalised 16 times in 10 years and the nurses have been just brilliant…same nursing staff over the decade, we are mates…they have been through so much with me.

    • Suzanne I cannot comprehend that we are billions in debt so solution is bring in 12,000 Refugees & hope to up that to 30 ,000 , all our problems will go away ,our Hospitals will work better ,our welfare won’t be stretched to the limit ,housing will be found easier than for Aussies ,we hear Medicare is in trouble but bring in more Refugees ,we have people waiting on operations already ,now they will be put back even further .

    • My thoughts exactly, although Im said to be politically incorrect, but I was taught to look after my own back yard first,

    • Suźanne Kader A cousin of mine who passed away recently just about lived at Saint Vincents Hospital in Sydney his lungs had had it ,something he was born with & wasn’t expected to live past his teens ,he lived to 69 ,he said how caring they were to him & a special Nurse visit him after her work was over ,he said she was an Angel .

    • You know my nurses have called in too if I have left something at the hospital, or if they live in my town, they are angels and my daughter is starting nursing this year…I have a great specialist who sees me every day for 15 minutes but the nurses are the carers..69…miracles do happen…Im so glad you had your cousin for so long…sorry for your lossxxxx

  4. We need to start user pays something system.
    Everyone cries about paying any contribution at all.
    There was a suggesgion that a $5 fee be paid for a drs visit omg people acted like their right arm was getting cut off.But yet they will spend way more than that on alcohol or gambling or some sort of recreation.
    But ask to pay something for your health & everyone is in uproar.
    We pay medicare blah blah blah well guess what people medicare does not cut it any more .My son has just finished his medical degree now a first year intern.
    He said they have lectures on how the health system is in dire straights and that soon they will have to start a user pays all or we will not have a health system at all.The thing is there is so many workers that pay the medicare levy in their taxes but the ones that are not working and using the system are out weighing the ones paying.
    This is a dilemma they are starting to talk about putting in rules in place that if you have any health issue to do with alcohol,smoking or obesity they will not treat you & you will not be covered by anything they can rule as self inflicted will not be covered and you will not be eligable to any health resources. Unless you pay in full for it.The fact is the system is in way more trouble than we are aware of.
    I feel that to at least relieve some pressure we need the mecicare tax lifted as well as it taken out of any and all centrelink or welfare payments.Health is important and we all need to do our bit all of us not just the tax payer.
    The population has gone up by almost 2 million overnight never before has it grown so fast.We are ahead of our population growth 8 years earlier than predicted & it is not sustainable most experts are saying.So buckle your seatbelts it is going to get a lot worse.
    If we do keep growing we are in a lot of trouble.Immigration has a lot to do with it.Aussies and most European countries are only having 2 to 3 children at most but the population is growing so fast and why it is that simple immigration and mainly islamic immigration who’s birth rates in western countries has risen to min 6 kids to 10 kids & yep all on us.We need to stop paying people to breed full stop no matter what colour race or religon.You want children you work for them.
    We are in real trouble if we do not make a user pay system of some sort and for all not just tge workers.I believe if you have worked all your life and paid for private health coverage on top after the age of 55 you should get free decent medical due to a lifetime of contribution.
    There should be some sort of reward for doing the right thing.
    I feel that the medicare tax should be taken from every citizen and non citizen using our health system full stop and stop winging about paying a few dollars towards your health it is precious to have good health.
    The health system is about to crumble and before everyone say the goverment should put more funding into health just where do you think that money is coming from only so many tax payers keeping this country afloat and last time I looked we are in 1/4 trillion of debt so we are broke people cant get blood out of a stone.
    Australia is in big trouble but we keep our heads buried in the sand and refuse to aknowledge it.
    I fear that by what my son has said of their lectures that the free publuc health system is at the end of its days.
    If nothing drastic is done and we as the people need to help change that.

    2 REPLY
    • If you put limits on people because they use tobacco or alcohol or obese I guess you then include illicit drugs, overuse of prescribed drugs, risky behavior that results in medical treatment being required. Mmmmm. By the time that is determined there may be no need for medical treatment. One way to reduce costs.

  5. If the lesser dose has put patients lives at risk then yes there should be a Royal Commission into what is happening, I go without some things so that I can pay my PRIVATE HEALTH which has been unaffordable for many years, yet the premium for PRIVATE HEALTH continues to go up yet getting far less when we claim. My Dr wanted me to go home on the 3rd day after full knee replacement surgery and as I live alone I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage on my own, so I opted to go to REHAB which made him quite angry with me because he said they were running out of resources. I would like to know if it has come to this then why am I wasting my TIME AND MONEY ON PRIVATE HEALTH which is suppose to cover these things, yes our HOSPITAL SYSTEM is seriously in TROUBLE!

  6. Baby Asha is like many other patients as hospitals look to after discharge care. She may not need hospital care but she may need further treatment. The detention facilities on Nauru have already received criticism over their failure to seek medical attention until the case is urgent and at least one death has occurred because of this. Other detainees have not been getting prescribed medicines even though they have been delivered to the centre. Just like cases where the doctors arrange home nurses or move patients living alone to Rehab facilities after discharge the doctors are looking to Asha’s post discharge care. It has become political because she is a refugee. As for hospital care it is good, bad sometime horrendous care it has always been. It certainly is headed further into dismal territory.

    1 REPLY
    • don’t like this topic at all, I think we other issues to worry about, than a sick baby who is only taking up a small space

  7. I work in a public hospital. We are lucky in this country to have access to free medical procedures and care.
    On the other hand there is a lot of waste and too much heirarchy.
    Hospitals should not be making political decisions. Such as the Asha case. Hospitals are full of nasty bugs and a burns victim should get out as quickly as possible. I would. So the care of this child is politically motivated. There is alternate care available and how long is she going to be kept here. I agree with the mother whose child was to vacate s bed because of bed shortages.

    3 REPLY
    • Of course this baby Ayesha issue is politically motivated, blind Freddie can see that. the other problem as I see it comes back to lack of funding due to cutbacks by governments.

    • It’s not all lack of funding. It is over servicing as well to avoid litigation. Too many people using the public system when the local Dr can treat. Waste of money in many areas. Too many tax evaders.
      Too many people on Centrelink payments. That money can be used for hospitals and education.
      In Turkey fuel is expensive because the tax on fuel pays for roads, hospitals and education.

    • Not to forget the Billions we borrow to give to other Countries & become more in debt .I read that we built an $80 million Hospital on Naru ,if they cannot care for one baby how can they care for others ,

  8. So many mistakes r made in hospitals.. lately ive been hearing stories how the elderly parents r been treated poorly n left to die becos of bad training or neglect in hsptls.. nursing homes should be listed also on the watch list.. families of the deceased just tell the stories what they c what they hear and the results.. unexpected death.. we dont have the money 2 sue the hsptls so they get away with it. Even my personal experiences r an eye opener. I have 2 argue with drs re my health issues. A person knows their body.. when theyre sick … theyre sick.. some pple r so trusting with their gp. A friend who looks like crap said she went 2 dr who said she had a virus/allergy.. i asked if its an allergy did u get a referal 2 c a specialist.. i got a blank look.. allergies can kill u girl.. omg and her friends r steering clear of her thinking shes contagious.. a virus is a headliner 4 an illness a dr cant hasnt got a clue what it is…. again go to anothr dr 4 second opinion and a third n 4th. Drive them crazy.. its yur health.

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