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"Being told of the death of my husband"

About: Mona Vale Hospital

(as other),

My husband had gone into Mona Vale Hospital for tests and had to remain under observation because he had symptoms of a heart problem. I was not well myself with bronchitis and a painful back and had to find accommodation with a friend that night as we lived away and I couldn't get back by myself. None of the tests he had that day showed anything definitive. He had an ECG (electrocardiogram), chest x-ray and blood test. My last communication from him said that the worst scenario was that he would be taken to RNS (Royal North Shore Hospital) the next morning to have a stent put in. He was still waiting on results of blood test. As there seemed no urgency, I didn't go to the hospital and was planning to go the next morning.

At about 8pm I noticed a message on my phone to call the hospital which I did and was put through to a Resident Doctor. I was told - my husband went into cardiac arrest, they tried to resuscitate him for 20 minutes but they couldn't. Instead of referring to my husband, the doctor actually used his full name, without acknowledging our relationship. Of course, this was a huge shock as you can imagine. I then said what do I do now? He replied - contact the family and get back to us.

I do not blame a young resident doctor for not having the experience or know how to deal with this very difficult situation, but I would like to suggest that in cases like this a senior member of staff be given this task or maybe even a social worker.

In hindsight I would have expected him to at least have asked me to come into the hospital and to tell me face-to-face, failing that I think he should have at least asked if I had someone with me before telling me to ensure that I had some support.

There is perhaps no easy way of telling someone that their loved-one has died, but I do think that part of training of these young doctors should be to role-play these situations and have a set of procedures they can follow, which makes the situation easier for all concerned.

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