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"Serious Communication Errors"

About: Sydney / Sydney Eye Hospital / 2 West & Hand Clinic Wollongong Hospital / Emergency Department Wollongong Hospital / Trauma & orthopaedics

(as the patient),

Arrived at Wollongong Emergency by ambulance recently for a deep cut on my right palm. I believe that I was treated as though I was a criminal, as the incident involved a knife (my right hand slipped over the grip onto the back end of a kitchen knife, the pointy end stuck into the chopping block). In my opinion the registrar upon entry was quite adamant and assuming intentional self-harm or domestic violence on my part. Trying to explain that it wasn’t, they said I was incoherent, not making sense and kept cutting me off impatiently after asking a question. I had been told I lost a lot of blood and was quite shaken. The ambulance officer said calmly that they are just doing their job, and not to take it personally.

Placed in the Sub Acute Emergency Ward, I think it was about 4 or more hours before being seen by staff. In this time, myself and my belongings were checked for 'sharps'. Nothing to find, didn’t take it personally and remained compliant. Having asked for pain relief during the wait, I was told by a staff member as they finished their shift - I’m done for the night you will have to ask the next nurse on duty. Finally, they gave me pain relief and again around 3-4 am. A doctor prepared to stitch my palm, they then decided it was too severe and told me to rest till the orthopaedic surgeon arrived in the morning. I confirmed with the doctor that I wouldn’t be working the following day and needed a medical certificate and to arrange a substitute for work. I believe they replied rudely when saying, not until later in the morning. (Never did receive the certificate by anyone, by morning I understand the doctor's shift had finished).

The orthopaedic doctor arrived about 8am and examined my hand, and returned later and informed me that after speaking with their senior, they would refer me to the hand specialists in Sydney for the next morning. (Specialists in Sydney is about 2.5 hours from home by train). The doctor said I was being discharged. I asked if I could call someone to pick me up and the doctor replied - yes, I’ll just prepare your discharge paperwork and referral and you can go.

Shortly later (maybe 30-40mins) I was told by a medical officer that my friend was sent away as I was staying in the hospital for the day/night and being transported by patient transfer that afternoon or early next morning to Sydney and that I needed a psych review. Confused at this point I asked why? And what is going on. Psych registrar came and spoke to me, chatted about the incident, my history and current frustration as to what was going on regarding my treatment. The psych registrar agreed that it was not self-harm and then went to find out what exactly was going on. They were upfront and not dismissive at all compared to the treatment I received by several of the staff in emergency, except the orthopaedic doctor - they were also professional.

Meanwhile, another doctor came and told me that I was being discharged after they made a plaster splint for my arm. Utterly confused, I asked the doctor what was going on and they walked away. The orthopaedic doctor came back and confirmed my discharge. The other doctor told me that I was always going to be discharged. I called my friend to pick me up again, however, they were unable to at this point. So, the psych registrar confirmed they would arrange a taxi at the expense of the hospital for the confusion to take me home.

Called Sydney Hospital the following day. The admin said I wasn’t booked in for surgery and couldn’t find my referral. Seemed to be confusion regarding my booking. They booked me in for the next morning for a consultation with possible surgery. Arrived in Sydney from 2+ hour journey and had a consultation to be told to come back the next morning for surgery.

Arrived in Sydney the next day after travelling 2+ hours on another packed peak hour train. I received a call from a doctor at the Sydney Hospital Hand Unit saying surgery had been cancelled today and come in the next day. I explained I just arrived in Sydney and literally 15 mins away and that this is extremely painful to sit in a peak hour train with a full carriage. The doctor explained an emergency came through the night before and this was the earliest they could tell me (8.30am cancellation for a 9.30am booking). They suggested I could come in and be admitted to stay overnight and surgery would take place the next morning. I arrived at Sydney Hospital Hand Unit and told to wait in the waiting room for the nurse. A doctor came about 11 am and took me aside and said the surgery wasn’t going to take place for another three days and to arrive at 7.30am.

I think at this point with all constraint I felt I was going to lose my sh*t. The staff did apologise and say it was out of their control. Quite distressed, I spoke to a social worker about how frustrated I was at the whole ordeal. I was given pain relief and antibiotics and left to catch the train home.

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Response from Jennie Barry, General Manager, Prince of Wales/Sydney/Sydney Eye Hospital 2 years ago
Jennie Barry
General Manager,
Prince of Wales/Sydney/Sydney Eye Hospital
Submitted on 19/03/2019 at 8:38 AM
Published on Care Opinion at 10:28 AM

Dear sore paw

I am very sorry to hear of your experience in Wollongong Hospital Emergency Department and the distress caused by the postponement of your surgery once referred to Sydney/Sydney Eye Hospital. Your feedback is valuable in helping us to improve the service we provide, especially to our patients who have long distances to travel. Your story has been forward onto the Wollongong Hospital General Manager to review and feedback to their staff. To further understand the circumstances in which you were cancelled twice I would ask you to contact me on this email

I apologise you have had a frustrating and distressing time after your hand injury and we would like to ensure your surgery goes ahead and you have a swift recovery.

Kind regards


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