Letter to the Editor: The disgrace of my latest hospital visit

My mum is 92, and on Melbourne Cup Day she buckled over and started crying and yelling. She was experiencing

My mum is 92, and on Melbourne Cup Day she buckled over and started crying and yelling. She was experiencing pain in her shoulder and right arm… My mother does not cry, so when I saw her so vulnerable I called Triple 0 without hesitation.

They were quick to arrive and were very gentle with Mum. They gave her that green whistle with the drugs in it to suck on until we got to the hospital. But then things went downhill.

At first doctors thought it was frozen shoulder. However, test after test revealed nothing and even though Mum was drugged tot he eyeballs she still could not move her arm without tears and whimpering. It did not matter how much I said “She was just sitting on the back porch when it happened” the hospital staff did not want to listen. The insisted that she must have strained it. How can she strain her shoulder so dramatically without even moving?

I was completely ignored when I expressed concern about a cough she had developed in the past couple of weeks. I felt totally invisible, and believe me, I am difficult to miss.

After about six hours they decided they had done all they could, which turned out to be nothing.

Mum was put in a stabiliser and was sent home with tablets for pain relief. I asked for a wheelchair to get Mum out of Emergency to the taxi rank and was told there were none available. A wheely walker? Also none available. My informing them that my mother was bone-on-bone i both knees fell on deaf ears. In the end, Mum used me as a crutch.

When she asked me for pain relief that night my gut instinct told me to investigate the medication she had been given, and a good thing too! Much to my horror she had been given a morphine-based drug that also contained codeine. They had failed to check her allergy charts. I hate to think what would have happened had I given Mum one of these tablets.

Unusually, by 2:30am the next morning she said she was pain free and demonstrated full movement in her arm and shoulder. It didn’t add up to being a ‘strain’. In fact, it didn’t make sense at all.

Three days after our hospital visit, Mum went downhill rapidly. I took her to the doctors and she was diagnosed with a lung infection. The doctor said the pain she experienced on Melbourne Cup Day would have been a symptom, and because she did not get proper care and attention at the time she now had bronchitis, which put her in a lot of pain and discomfort.

I could tell the doctor was none too impressed when he read the paperwork from the hospital, but he did not go so far as to admit a mistake had been made.

Having cared for Mum for the past four years I know that the older we get the more difficult it is to keep the medical profession interested in our wellbeing. I realise no one can live forever, not even my mother, but even with her myriad problems there remains a thing called ‘Duty of Care’… At least there was. I feel it went right out the window when Mum visited the hospital.

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  1. Leah  

    They never listen anymore. I have experienced the same with my daughter who has a disability. She is not valued as a person therefore no duty of care is applied.

    • Cheryl  

      I also had to take my daughter to ER quite regularly when she was alive. She had an intellectual disability and sadly contracted MS and this is what eventually killed her.a lot of the staff really had little interest in her and it used to break my heart that they treated her like she did not matter.

    • Cheryl  

      I also had to take my daughter to ER quite regularly when she was alive. She had an intellectual disability and sadly contracted MS and this is what eventually killed her.a lot of the staff really had little interest in her and it used to break my heart that they treated her like she did not matter.

  2. Robyn Williams  

    Christine, I am so sorry to hear the lack of treatment/respect shown you and your mother. You both deserve better than this as does everyone else. I understand Hospital staff can be under enormous pressure at times but part of basic training will tell you to listen carefully to what both patient and caregiver/family are saying in order to make a complete diagnosis. As painful as it might be I do hope you take this to the authorities and demand action and an apology. It may not help your mother but it will help others in the future. Best Wishes for her recovery.

  3. Di Field  

    As a registered nurse of 50 years, I can honestly say, since nursing training was taken out of the hospital and put into university, in general, the quality of good old fashion care has gone . No one wants to do the mundane things in care, no one takes the time to listen. Student nurses were the back bone of the hospitals, they worked their way up gained valuable experience along the way. I have worked with so many uni trained nurses who do not even know how to speak with patients. Yes there are some great uni trained nurses, but on the whole the quality has changed.

    • Ellen Brownley  

      I too was a hospital trained nurse and have to agree with your comments totally….once whilst working with one uni trained nurse I was informed that she was not going to do one of the mundane jobs of nursing as she had her degree. To say I was shocked at her reply was an understatement. She did it I can tell you.

      • Mary-Anne Yost  

        I too was a hospital trained nurse, and I toyally agree with you. Simple things like brushing people’s teeth, and hair, mouth care for nbm patients, and people on oxygen. I worked with premature babies and the amount of times I went on shift and looked after babies who had crusting and cruddy lips and around their nasal passages from all the tubes, plus oxygen therapy was unbelievable, it’s disgusting. I have been on the recieving end of some of these nurses as a patients and it disgusts me, their lack of professionalism is unbelievable. But having said all this I have worked with some true nurses who are uni trained, the difference is that sets them aside from their colleagues is they have a true vocation. Anyone can study to be a nurse at uni, but very few have a true vocation for it.

  4. Shelley Taylor  

    The same thing happened with my mother. She had a fall and was taken to hospital. The doctors said she had had a heart attack. They gave her an injection but failed to tell us that it could cause a stroke.which it did.
    When I queried why we hadnt been told all they said was the injection cost $2000. Mum lasted 9. Days after that in a coma. When I asked what could be done, the doctor shrugged his shouldes and said “There is nothing more we can do for her”. They turned off the saline drip after 2 days saying ” She will go quicker without it”. To them she was past her use by date at 90 and they werent prepared to put any more time or help in to her. 13 years later I still have nightmares over this ordeal. Duty of care flew out the window.

  5. carol  

    had the same trouble when my mum was in hospital with a broken hip. had to go up there every day after work to look after her, when she complained of pain they told her she was just being a baby and after she was discharged found out she had broken her knee cap as well that they had failed to pick up even though she had told them about the pain and trouble she was having with it

  6. Heather Pepper  

    You don’t have to be elderly for nursing duty of care to go out of the window. 12 months ago I had a major car accident and was admitted to our states main hospital. The doctors and nurse from moment of admission through to ICU were wonderful but then I hit the ward and the care by the nursing staff just dropped off the planet. I remember ringing the call bell as I was about to throw up but no one came even though I could see them sitting in the nurses bay. In the end I got out of bed with difficulty to try and get to the toilet in time but didn’t make it. Then the staff had the audacity to tell me I should have rung the bell before I’d started to feel sick! I also had a large penitration wound under my arm which family members begged them to change the dressing this never got done in 10 days from the original trauma dressing. Needless to say when I got discharged it was with a very badly infected wound which they still hadn’t dressed! I had a chance later to read my notes and the nurses had each day written in wound clean and dry redressed as per protocol. I am also an old school trained nurse with a uni degree in nursing and I agree there is no duty of care among a lot of Uni trained nursing staff

  7. Christine  

    As hard as I have tried my mums care will not change until some of the nurses are shown how to give empathy, care and understanding of a persons pain, feelings and sense of emptiness. Wake up professional medical staff, you will be there one day.

    Mum is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

  8. Christine, I’ve experienced the same things with my Mum who will be 90 next year. The Medical profession seem to put everything just down to “old age”. Because of the numbers in our rapidly increasing older population, I believe it is well and truly time for a ‘Seniors Hospital’ with treatment by Medical professionals in the aged care industry. We already have a ‘Childrens Hospital’ so why not a ‘Seniors Hospital’ with staff trained in the needs of the elderly. My Mum’s blood pressure skyrocketed to 220 over 114 and instead of trying to find out the cause, they were only interested in stabilising her medication. Her Doctor doesn’t even bother to take her blood pressure at her check-ups, despite knowing her history. Mum doesn’t like taking medication and each time she says anything, her Doctor says, “But you’re not taking much medication, what can you expect?” And all of us are heading in the same direction!! We “oldies” need to stand up and make a fuss; write letters; petition Governments and Ministers, and DEMAND our rights!

  9. Mary Toohey  

    Years ago, I heard a specialist aged care doctor talking about this issue. He commented that if a child had something like measles or chicken pox, you wouldn’t say it is typical of the age group. We won’t do anything to treat it. But that this sort of attitude occurred often in the treatment of older patients. He said that it was not only lazy but negligent and totally unacceptable. It seems that many older people only get treated well if they have someone to advocate for them. Not good enough.

  10. P Worrall  

    Obvious Answer is that with the blessing of repeated LNP Gov’s Doctors are now entitled. Full expectations of a life of wealth and luxury. Our system rapidly evolving to provide it. Consideration no longer given that critical care is an essential service, if you can’t afford private health the non achievers will provide your treatment with the limited help of pro bono doctors. Unlike Ambos, Nurses, Teachers ,Police. whose returns are regulated. Doctors and private health care providers are now divvying up our health dollars among themselves with Gov policy’s that seek to entrench this system

    • excuse me. are you implying that the nurses and doctors that work in the public system are less capable, less trained, less caring than those who work in the private system? As a nurse of 40+ years who has worked in both public and private hospitals I can tell you this is crap…….and a crappy thing to say by the way. People are people and there are good and less good people in every area of our lives. I have worked with awesome caring capable people in both systems, and by the same token some who were less so in both systems. Public hospital doctors are often young and in training but they are backed up by dedicated specialists who choose to continue to provide service in a less lucrative environment. some don’t even have a private practice as well.

  11. Marie Nourse  

    I recently underwent major surgery at a country hospital. I saw my surgeon when I was put on the operating table, this was Friday. on Saturday they wanted to discharge me, I had not yet seen a Dr of any description (2 weeks down the track and I STILL have not seen a Dr) I stated that I was going home alone, no family support, no neighbours to help, and had not been able to procure home help. When Nurses were asked if I should have a Post Op Hemorrhage,were they going to take responsibility? I was allowed to stay until Sunday morning. (I am in my 70’s) as an ex nurse (recently retired) i know the procedures to follow when discharging patients. I am thoroughly discussed with the once proud profession of nursing.

    • berniegirl  

      Hi Marie I fully understand your pain……….I just wish they bring back training on the wards……….The young nurses of today are missing out on every day happenings that goes on in our wards……….some are so rude and yet we do have some caring nurses…………after my Negligence experience it scares me so much……. when I am terrify to go in for any procedure.

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