"Patient treatment"

About: Calvary Mater Newcastle John Hunter Hospital / Clinical oncology Kurri Kurri Hospital / Palliative medicine Maitland Hospital / Clinical oncology

(as the patient),

We, the family, have filed complaints with the Complaints Co-ordinator at all of these hospitals and have been in contact with them regarding follow up, etc. But after seeing your website and in the light of investigations into patient care, I felt this needed to be told for other family’s sakes. 

We need to preface all of this with the fact that my mother’s local doctor, after refusing to do the required blood tests and x-rays for my mother’s cancer condition, we believe was also negligent in her patient care by telling my mother it would be a waste of resources to bother to do these tests and she wouldn’t be doing them.  Needless to say my mother changed doctors.

Hospital visit at Calvary Mater Hospital:

1. Our mother was taken to the Mater to undergo breast surgery, ray treatment and chemotherapy late 2016. Her time with the nursing staff was unpleasant as we felt one of the nurses was quite rude to her when administering the wrong medication to her and she asked to have her own as it was the correct dosage – he brought the tablets and threw them across the bed at her and said, there, there’s your tablets.  He didn’t wait to see if she had taken them or chart them?  

2. They continually asked her if her stomach was alright and were amazed at times that she was eating so well – this made sense some time later after her discharge when she was looking at her x-rays and found that she had another patient’s x-rays mixed in with her own - a patient who was across the room from our mother who had breast cancer and stomach cancer, so no wonder they were amazed at her eating well as she didn’t have stomach cancer, but were treating her as if she did - heaven help the poor woman who did have stomach cancer.

3. In our opinion, her after surgery care was negligible and she did not receive the ongoing treatment she should have as far as lymphatic massage with her left arm which was building up with fluid.  In fact, she was told she had to wait to be seen by someone trained in the specialised lymphatic massages and ended up waiting months instead of the required 48hrs after surgery and only then after we jumped up and down about it.  She received one session of 15mins with a person who was supposed to be trained in this specialised treatment and told that she could do it herself now?!  How specialised was this treatment that she could learn it in one 15min session and do it herself? 

4. When she was hospitalised twice after her one dose of incredibly strong chemo (she had triple negative cancer), her doctor didn’t even bother to come but sent basically a representative – even though he knew that within three days of the chemo she was having non-stop nose bleeds, vomiting, diarrhoea, couldn’t eat or drink properly and was quite dehydrated.  After the first episode and litres of fluid we thought he may appear on the second visitation to emergency, but he did not and she still needed lots of fluid replacement.  She felt neglected, unimportant and a lost cause.

5. Her ongoing care resulted in consultation checks and nothing more being done for the lymphatic fluid drainage massage or anything else for that matter. 

6. She had originally decided to have ray treatment and not chemo as she had witnessed the destruction chemo did to her friends lives, but after more consideration she decided she would do it but was told by the doctor she was under that this doctor wouldn’t do it for her anyway and that they were going on holidays.

Hospital visit at Maitland District Hospital – our mother was taken to Maitland District Hospital in early 2018 after breast surgery, radiology and chemotherapy in the previous eighteen months, and up until her admission had been driving her car, living on her own, cooking, washing and surviving in her early 80's.  She was admitted with a fungal lung infection, atrial fibrillation and problems with the fluid draining from her left arm where the surgery had been done.  During her weeks there the following is a glimpse into what she experienced (that she told us, as she didn’t want to make too much of a fuss as we weren’t there through the night, a time when we believe the nurses were more rude and nasty than normal).

1. Mum was admitted and they had to administer a particular cream that they did not have in stock, I offered to bring it in and was told that would be fine. However, they administered the incorrect cream 24 hrs earlier than the specialist had advised and as I was walking into the hospital with the correct cream on the day, as arranged with one of the nurses, I was receiving a phone call from the emergency team as Mum had gone into atrial fibrillation with her heart. I believe this was due to Mum having cortisone cream for her skin to relieve allergies and the cream they administered reacted with this and her skin was burning, itching and painful.

She had been up all night in pain even after they tried to shower her to remove the cream and this distress had raised her heart rate after ten hours of enduring the problem. She was rushed to ICU where within 24 hrs they did the exact same thing with the cream again and Mum was in distress and pain once again.

2. She was moved to another ward after ICU and after finding a mass in her head.  A same nurse was with our mother for the last two days she was in Maitland District Hospital in the second ward and I had interactions with her regarding applying cream to Mum via the dermatologist's request, but she seemed to keep making excuses until it got to the point that I asked my mother if she was uncomfortable and she said yes. The nurse's response was to ask me if I was her daughter and if so, I could apply the cream.  I will always do what I need to for my mother's comfort, however the fact that I had to apply cream to her in private places made her feel very upset and embarrassed.  The next day I dropped in for breakfast and on my way out the same nurse asked if I had done the cream. When I replied I hadn't, she mumbled something about the fact she would get to it.  Hopefully she did, considering that was what mine and my mother's tax dollars are paying for, i.e. her doing her job. 

3. When my mother pressed her buzzer it would take this nurse up to at least 15mins to answer her and only then because I would walk into the corridor to see who was around and she would be there talking or standing and then call out to me, is that your mother buzzing? I will be there in a minute.  This behaviour was not isolated to my mother, but anyone else in the room and as pleasant as she may have been she was not 'nursing' so to speak.  Ironically, as my mother was being transferred to John Hunter Hospital for brain surgery, this nurse was heard to say to her that she didn't want her to go?  Why, because she may not get away with what I believe was a lack of nursing and patient care if the next person isn’t as ill as my mother?

4. A nurse had, in my opinion, been quite rude and nasty to our mother in the last few days of her stay in Maitland Hospital, to the point the man in the next bed heard her having problems breathing and came to see if she was ok.  Apparently the nurse had scolded her for removing her cannula which had been inadvertently pulled out by the doctor hours earlier and the doctor had apologised to the nurse at the time and Mum for doing so. 

When Mum tried to explain this to the night nurse, I believe she was quite rude and said that Mum had done it.  My mother said she would ring the buzzer to prove it, but the nurse removed the buzzer and positioned the bed so Mum was basically folded in half and had trouble breathing.  The man in the bed next to her made her a cup of tea around midnight as she was in distress and he couldn't find the buzzer or bed controls to help her.

At the time we thought this may have been confusion with some of the pain killers, but I heard the man in the bed next to Mum telling the morning nurse he was up last night making cups of tea as he couldn't sleep.

This was the morning her heart was going into atrial fibrillation again and she rang us at 5.00am petrified of what was happening.

5. I believe the Infectious Control person or the Infectious Control Department, should never have allowed our mother to be discharged without the full course of the cream treatment to be executed given this is, from my understanding, against the hospital's health policy.

Hospital visit at John Hunter Hospital – our mother was taken to John Hunter Hospital to investigate her having brain surgery due to the mass found in her head, but unfortunately it was a different venue, but I believe the same negligence and lack of concern.  This is her experience there: 

1. We had a meeting with the doctor, social worker and a third staff member to discuss our mother's ongoing care and it was suggested as they were no longer going to do the brain surgery that she may be happier being closer to home and family and may prefer to be at Kurri Kurri Hospital.  It was at this meeting that the third staff member gave us both, my brother and I, her assurance that if our mother was moved to another hospital it would happen only if it was her decision and she would not be forced to leave against her wishes. Her last treatment for her skin condition was discussed and Mum was to have a dermatologist sign off on her condition before she could be discharged/transferred from John Hunter Hospital. 

2. Furthermore, not only were we assured that if our mother did request to move to another hospital that this would not occur until after the quarantine period. However none of these assurances were fulfilled.

3. Given we were concerned as to Mum's emotional and mental health given what she had been through, we asked the same staff member if Mum decided to stay at John Hunter would that be a problem. The staff member confirmed that it was Mum's decision and no-one was going to push her out and that she could think about it and she confirmed that a decision didn’t have to be made that day or that night, as far as she was concerned.  We went to Mum's room and told her what was happening and she said she was happy where she was and we told her she didn't have to make a decision for a day or so as she was still to be cleared in two more days, which was what the staff member had told us.

4. However, after we left, the same staff member rang Kurri Kurri Hospital and 'found' a bed, then proceeded to go to my mother's room without any of us there to support her and told her she was leaving that night. Our mother was in no state to argue, but was very upset and worried at why it had all suddenly changed.

The staff member then proceeded to ring my brother to tell him what was happening while at the same time my mother was ringing me in a very distressed state.  We were still in the car going home from the meeting and from seeing our mother and yet it seems this staff member had railroaded our mother without the proper emotional support of family.

5. Our mother was then  transferred to Kurri Kurri Hospital without the sign off and clearance from a dermatologist and we feel without the proper courtesy, care or treatment for a patient in her condition.

6. This staff member also assured us that when or if our mother was transported anywhere, it would be done by Patient Transport with a Registered Nurse accompanying her due to her condition.  However, yet another unfulfilled assurance from her as our mother was not accompanied by any nurse during her transfer.

7. In my opinion, this staff member conducted herself in a grossly unprofessional, uncaring and deliberately deceitful way to say one thing to us in a meeting and then proceeded to our mother and do another.  I believe her assurances regarding our mother were totally disregarded given we learnt that night our mother wasn’t given the option of whether she wanted to stay or leave, but was informed she was being transferred within minutes of us leaving her room and being an infirm, terminally ill, elderly person didn’t have the strength nor the knowledge to argue or defend herself.  Her options as stated were basically nil. There was a bed at Kurri Kurri Hospital and she was to have it and was being transferred that night. This transfer was not done because our mother wanted to go and I understand against the hospital’s documented required clearance by the dermatologist.

8. My mother experienced more skin problems and humiliation at Kurri Kurri Hospital, I feel due to her skin not being treated properly before she was discharged from John Hunter Hospital and given she was only to live until a short time longer, this made her last weeks on earth fraught with pain, discomfort and upset.  If we realised then how much more we could have done regarding our mother’s rights and our rights as her voice, this would never have happened.

9. In our opinion, the decision this staff member caused this for our mother and we do not want another patient or their family to go through our experiences.  This is supposed to be caring, healing, empathetic and compassionate profession and not one that causes distress, pain, confusion, fear and neglect.

10. Another matter concerning us is that not one staff member at the John Hunter Hospital who cared for my mother thought it relevant, important or their duty of care to notify the patient transfer personnel as to Mum’s uncleared skin condition.  Basic Health & Safety states that we are responsible for not only our health and safety in the workplace, but also those around us. Apparently not so at John Hunter.

11. As hospital records will undoubtedly show, our mother, was admitted to Maitland Hospital’s emergency ward, severely distressed with dangerous atrial fibrillation – I feel due to the unacceptable treatment that she had experienced earlier from staff at John Hunter Hospital.

12. My Mum liked to be clean and showered, but some days she was so distressed at not being able to have a shower until lunch time.  While she was able she did it herself, but as her health declined she had to rely on the nurses. Some staff were always kind and compassionate and others only appeared that way in our presence.

Even though Kurri was a lot better, often basic nursing care wasn't provided to mum and we witnessed some nurses making inappropriate comments. Mum had wonderful, caring people in the rest of the staff who made her final days bearable and for whom I have such admiration, respect and gratitude toward.

Our mother has had a world of pain, hurt and humiliation since this journey started and was so mishandled by each hospital when it could have been a simple solution if notes/messages were read and adhered to.  I had to speak with her doctor on a number occasions about why he wasn’t visiting her daily since he was in the hospital daily and monitoring her. But he was visibly invisible with my mother’s care unless we tried to corner him.

This all seems so futile now, but in our opinion Mum's last months with us were filled with fear, distress, pain and condescension from a profession that is supposed to be, as mentioned before, the complete opposite.

It can't make Mum's time better or easier, but I certainly hope that other people's family members may be spared the torment my mother endured.  Everyone has family and parents, how would they feel if this was their loved one?

So sad that in this age of progress, technology and enlightenment we still need to have forums which should be obsolete if everyone did their job to the best of their ability.

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