Too little, too late 20



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After being in the nursing profession for many years, I know illness can strike at any time. Strong, healthy people can become frail and vulnerable very quickly. And at the same time become totally reliant on the hospital staff. Since retirement, I’ve been hell bent on staying healthy, believing prevention is far better than cure. I also think good health comes through an equal balance of mind, body and spirit. However, all three aspects were seriously challenged during recent visit to hospital.

My current situation started when a health check picked up a growth on my liver. Surgery was my only option. And although I was somewhat nervous, I was confident private health cover would afford me the best of care. It was also comforting to know that my husband had over two years carers leave owing.

The operation was much bigger than expected leaving me quite ill. I spent almost a week in Intensive Care. There were endless tubes and ducts seemingly coming from every part of my body. The pain I was experiencing was crippling and programmed exercise routines excruciating, often leaving me in tears. I was very frail and extremely vulnerable.

Being legally blind didn’t help either. Lacking peripheral vision kept me in the dark about what was happening around me. This exacerbated my anxiety to no end. As did the fact that everything I needed was either out of sight or out of reach. On many occasions, pleads for help were ignored or rejected. Everyone seemed to be far too busy to attend to such trivialities.

If only my husband could help. Even to feed me some ice-chips or assist with my exercises. His kindness and patience would have made such a difference to my state of mind and no doubt my overall well-being. This would have also freed up staff to attend to their overly busy schedule. But, this was not to be as my husband’s work involves lots of travel leaving little time for hospital visits.

And! What about all that carer’s leave? Well! The doctors, in their infinite wisdom, decided I had all the support I needed. A certificate for carer’s leave was continually refused without any consideration for my needs or that of my husband’s work situation.

Eventually, and after a week of much pleading, a carer’s certificate was eventually granted. However, it came when I was improving and able to do more for myself. If ever there was a case of too little too late, this was it.

My hospital stay was not at all as expected. It wasn’t so much about the medical practices but the lack of empathy and emotional support. I do believe, not only in my case but many others as well, more assistance in meeting individual needs would eliminate a lot of additional stress and a encourage a much faster healing process. And in my case, how a simple carer’s certificate would have made for a more comfortable stay and quicker recovery.

Tell us, do you have a similar story? What happened?

Kate Giles

Kate Giles is a 60 plus retired health care worker. Although having lost over 90% of her vision to a genetic eye disease, she remains an active member of the community. Kate is also a regular columnist on a Government website. Neither age nor disability has limited Kate’s sense of adventure. Each year along with her husband Denis, they head off on a self- designed holiday experience that would envy most 30 year olds. With three kids and six grandkids and loads of experience in the real world, Kate is never short of a topic to write about.

  1. Understand where you’re coming from Kate and truly empathise with you as I too, found myself in a similar predicament recently. Being a Type 1 diabetic and despite my endo’s instructions to the staff that I was to administer my insulin injections myself and just advise them of my levels, the nurses did not agree and insisted on them administering same each meal. Except that, because they are so short staffed, I had to wait sometimes for over an hour before they’d inject me – with the result that my blood sugar levels for the entire length of my stay were in the high 20’s — which is a precursor for serious problems. Patient to nurse ratios are inadequate and is yet just another example of the almighty dollar taking precedence over common sense and compassion.

    4 REPLY
    • Yesthat does happen, one loses all their Rights once being admitted, as if we cannot give ourselves tabs etc,let alone insulin, as a nurse it happened to me as well. It is a shame as I know we do not get Meds out on time,as short staff Nurses on wards is on all the time,

    • Hi, sad you had a hard time. I’m a nurse and always enc pts to self administer their own insulin….I usually just check the dose tho to make sure their usual dose.
      I disagree with Claire Hancocks comments……a lot of what needs to be done is for the patients welfare not for our convenience….we r inconvenienced by other things that r needed to be done and r so busy at times…plus pts don’t see most of what we r doing, often have 4-6 pts to care for- not in the same room , more on night shift, and a lot of the time other pts r needing assistance at the same time!
      Most of the time nurses do all that they can for patients…nursing care, medications, emotional support of them and their families, and lots of little things to make their stay more bearable, with a happy disposition and often finish their shift late (often).

    • Lynne, yes exactly the same with me. I’m type 1, been so for 50 years and the hospital wouldn’t let me take charge of my diabetes as I do every day of my life…….and yes, extremely high blood sugars. On my discharge notes was written ‘uncontrolled diabetes’ well it certainly wasn’t when I was admitted!!!

    • Lynne, yes exactly the same with me. I’m type 1, been so for 50 years and the hospital wouldn’t let me take charge of my diabetes as I do every day of my life…….and yes, extremely high blood sugars. On my discharge notes was written ‘uncontrolled diabetes’ well it certainly wasn’t when I was admitted!!!

  2. Two comments from my own observations:

    1. Hospitals are run for the convenience of the staff, not for the welfare of the patients.

    2. The patient is not a person: he or she is a medical condition on the processing line that is our hospital system.

  3. My husband was seriously ill had stomach tube, catheter, both arms hooked to drips including insulin infusion. After two mornings where he was wheeled into a freezing bathroom with wet floor literally hosed down and left to drip dry ( by two different nurses) I came back to find him shivering badly and dried him – I then realised that I would have to shower him each morning myself.
    The nursing staff became angry
    This is just one example of how he was treated. There was much more.
    After he left hospital we were sent a questionnaire about the experience by health dept.
    we gave very disgusted comments on his personal car but no one was interested enough to contact us

  4. I’ve obviously been very lucky then. I had a 5 week stay in St Vincents Hospital in Toowoomba in 2014 and found all the staff to be very caring and supportive.
    Last year I was in the Greenslopes Private Hospital in Brisbane and could not fault the care and compassion of the staff there either.

  5. Having experienced one of states largest hospitals, and coming from a nursing background I see hospitals being run as a cooperate business with patients being on the bottom rung of business.

  6. Have been lucky so far with any visits but ……

  7. We also are very lucky in Tasmania. My husband had a 5 day stay in CCU department in North West Regional Hospital in Tasmania and couldn’t have asked for better treatment. Wonderful Drs and nurses and always kept well informed and well cared for.

  8. I’ve felt for a long time that the university based training of nurses is flawed,they don’t get enough hands on practical training, and you can’t teach common sense,
    I would like to see hospital based training come back, with a back to basics start at the bottom, from cleaning, learning how to put a patient on a bed pan , feed patients, and bring back the chain of command, it appears nobody is responsible ,it’s always someone else’s job, and the head nurse can’t even check the cleaning of wards as its contracted out and they have no athorority over so many other people that are involved in patient care, meals are dished out by contractors, and it’s up to someone else to cut up, feed , place in front of patient,assist etc, and the basics get lost .
    Hospitals were never short staffed when we had in house training, and our nurses were sought after all over the world as they were considered the best. ( I am an old school retired nurse- )

    2 REPLY
    • I totally agree. Hospital based training gave the foundations for better care to patients.

    • My sentiments exactly I was hospital based trained and there is no better way than learning on the job. I also worked in a hospital based Nursing school so saw it from both angles. Keep university but incorporate it with hospital based get the best of both worlds and produce more empathetic staff with excellent medical skills

  9. I had a shoulder operation last November 2015 and had a shoulder block and through that got a punctured lung .was taken back to emergency as I had been discharged before I knew ,in emergency I was treated with much care and respect then taken to theatre And then had to spend 5 days in intensive care at Horsham Hospital Vic ,I could NOT fault the treatment I received . They were fantastic . Even when I was put out into the ward for the night before going home they the staff could not do enough but, that was my experience . …Thank you Nursing staff. And Doctors at Wimmera Heath Care .

  10. I was in hospital for two weeks as a private patient following a major operation for pancreatic cancer. The first week was in the intensive care unit. The pain management plan that we had decided on didn’t work. Surgery was Friday and by Saturday afternoon I was in agony but was told there was no one available. That team over the weekend. I have taken medication for post traumatic stress disorder after an incident eight years ago. Over the weekend the medication was ceased. No one can tell me why however it caused withdrawal symptoms and a major panic attack that saw me pulling out tubes and not knowing where I was at 2am.
    The staff were rude and abusive. Meals were just left by the side of the bed and as I couldn’t reach them or feed myself I went hungry. No one offered to wash me. I was just thrown a towel and told to have a shower. By this time I had pneumonia and a total of eight drips and a catheter. Shower and feed myself how???

    My husband was left to bring food from the cafeteria, make me tea and make my bed. It was not a mechanical bed it was an old metal trolley kind that one week after being in it collapsed. Cannot tell you how painful that was after abdominal surgery!!

    There are no mens wards or women’s ward. I had an elderly Indian gentleman with dementia that kept trying to get into my bed in the middle of the night. Call a nurse??? What a joke in the middle of the night!

    I could go on but I’m trying to put this behind me. It was a miracle I survived at all. I believe the nurses are overwhelmed and most are on contract so barely did I see the same face twice. This leads to a disinterest in the patient that was obvious. Even the nurse unit manager in Critical Care, when asked what I could expect from a private cover, stated that I could expect a TV for free, no gap charges in house and a single room if one was available. I will never enter a public hospital again. I will die in a tent by the side of the road before I put myself through that again and as a country we should be raising Hell over the deterioration of what once was a world leader in Health.

  11. One of the wonderful things that we do have in our little Community off the beaten track< the Nursing Staff at our little Hospital still works on the older style of Empathy & the patients needs ! Granted when things are serious one has to be flown out to the big smoke, which is a necessity but if things can be treated locally it`s the only place one would want to be in !!!!What a difference when one needs TLC **

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