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"Surgery delays and associated problems"

About: Box Hill Hospital / Emergency Department Box Hill Hospital / Trauma & orthopaedics Epworth Eastern

(as the patient),

To whom it may concern,

I would like to offer some feedback on the treatment I have received at Box Hill Hospital recently.

Late afternoon, I mistook a step and managed to dislocate and fracture my ankle. As I was in agonizing pain and could not get up from the concrete floor of the shop front, my spouse called an ambulance. Ambulance officers were very comforting and after several attempts of different pain killers, managed to get me to the state where I would at least not be moaning and screaming.

Emergency staff at Box Hill Hospital were amazing! The x-ray was done within minutes and fast tracked to doctors that advised me that they will deal with the dislocation and plaster up my ankle, but I would need surgery to repair the fracture. I was given light anaesthetic and when I came to my ankle was in plaster.

Later that night I was advised by the nurse, that there is some delay in getting a bed in a ward and they would advise me once a bed becomes available. The nurse was kind enough to find me some sandwiches and make a cup of tea.

At around midnight, I was advised that there were still no beds available and I would have to spend a night in emergency. This meant no sleep at all. This also meant that when I needed attention from the nurse I had to scream "help" as there were no buzzers. Being exhausted, in pain, and not being able to even get myself a glass of water was very disturbing.

The following morning the first surgeon I saw dropped by and advised that surgery would take place the next day, but I would get transferred up to a ward before then.

I was transferred to ward 7. Whoever has designed this layout of beds is a fascist. My bed and the one next to it were not in a room but instead at the end of a corridor that was partitioned off with curtains. The bed next to mine was at least right at the end and had two walls and a window. My bed, however, was privileged to be right next to the toilet and had no privacy what so ever.

Under doctor's orders I was forbidden to get up from bed, so that the swelling would subside as much as possible before the operation. That was not much of an issue as I was in severe pain. What was an issue is that the poor nurses had no chance to respond to calls promptly. Being right in the corridor and observing everything that was going on around me, I was astonished to discover that 1 nurse was looking after 8-10 patients. That is mission impossible with patients that are immobile and stuck in bed!

The following morning, a second surgeon came to inspect my ankle and advised that the swelling was still severe and surgery would need to be postponed till the next day.

To make matters even ‘better’, the patient next to me was in so much pain that they constantly screamed and moaned and then towards late afternoon became diarrhoeic. So, every time they would have a bowel movement, obviously in their bed, the smell was unbearable. I asked the nurse whether it would be possible to isolate this patient or to move me, but was gracefully ignored. The patient was finally moved to a single room that evening. So, for over 24 hours I had the ‘pleasure’ of smelling that disaster.

I ended up asking a nurse for a sleeping pill that night, as I was becoming delirious from lack of sleep. I managed to get about 5 - 6 hours of sleep with a sleeping pill, finally after 2 sleepless nights.

As per the doctor's orders I was fasting from midnight, as my surgery was meant to take place that coming day. In the morning the second surgeon came to inspect my ankle and advised that although the swelling has subsided, there are several blisters on my legs and they would need to consult with another surgeon whether the operation would go ahead.

Around 2 pm (this is 14 hours of fasting), a group of surgeons came by and inspected my ankle and leg and advised that they could operate. At the same time, they were not sure what time the surgery would take place, as there was only one operating theatre working that day.

Around 7:30 pm (that's 19. 5 hours without food or liquid), I was advised that another emergency case came up and there would be no time for my surgery today. Furthermore, the surgeon scheduled on duty for the next day didn't like to operate with blisters, so I would be likely to be operated on 2 – 3 days from now. The second surgeon advised that if I have private medical insurance, they would strongly recommend being transferred to a private hospital. They were prepared to speak to the reconstructive surgeon on my behalf and get me transferred. I agreed to this suggestion, as I was exhausted, starving and absolutely demoralised.

To my surprise, the following morning the second surgeon stated to their colleagues, during morning round, that I wished to be transferred to a private hospital and that's why the surgery did not take place. When I tried to speak they simply closed the curtain and moved to the next patient. That's a way to bend the truth!

The second surgeon came back in an hour or so and, without looking at me in my eyes, advised that they organised transfer to Epworth Eastern and that I would be collected at 11:30am.

I then realized that my eyes were stinging from my own smell. Mind you, I had not had a shower since the injury occurred. Three days of lying in bed and going to the toilet in a bed pan resulted in me smelling not like a rose at all. When I called the nurse and asked them to organise a shower for me I was told that it is not permitted. I was shocked. I explained that I need a shower desperately and I would most likely go blind from my own stink. My pleading with the nurse worked and they allowed me to have a shower.

Sure enough, patient transport staff were at my bed with a stretcher at 11:25am, but my paperwork was not ready until just after midday.

After the transfer to the private hospital, I did have the surgery three days later and was discharged two days after that. The total cost of the exercise was around $1500.

So, it's not enough that I pay my taxes and the Medicare levy. In time of emergency I get treated very poorly, forced to move to a private hospital to pay for the treatment.

I am shocked that so much money was spent on this hospital’s renovation, but administration and patient service is so poor.

I sincerely hope that the treatment I received is accidental, rather than the norm.

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Response from David Plunkett, Chief Executive, Eastern Health 6 years ago
David Plunkett
Chief Executive,
Eastern Health
Submitted on 13/07/2017 at 6:50 PM
Published on Care Opinion on 14/07/2017 at 8:50 AM

picture of David Plunkett

Dear left demoralized

Thank you for your feedback here on Patient Opinion and via email to our Centre for Patient Experience, regarding your recent experience at Box Hill Hospital.

I apologise to you for the concern, distress and inconvenience that this experience has caused and offer my reassurance to you that the treatment you received is certainly not the norm and not what we expect for any of our patients.

Your compliment regarding your initial experience in the Emergency Department is great to hear. The further feedback regarding your ongoing experience however has provided us with an opportunity to review not only the care you received but to improve the care and experience we provide all our patients.

In response to your feedback, I have arranged for a review of each of the concerns to determine where we went wrong and what we can do to improve.

Further, your experience will be used in a de-identified way as a reminder for our staff to ‘place themselves in the patient’s shoes’ and ensure open, compassionate and timely communication with all our patients. I have also requested that a Patient Relations Advisor from our Centre for Patient Experience contact you via email to confirm the steps we have taken in response to this matter.

It is disappointing to read of your experience but I do thank you for taking the time to report your concerns so that we can improve the care we provide.

Kind regards


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