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"Lack of care and consent"

About: Joondalup Health Campus / Maternity

(as the patient),

I had my first child at the start of this year. During my pregnancy there were concerns regarding swollen feet and blood pressure rising. On my due date, I was referred to the birthing suite at Joondalup Health Campus. My blood pressure needed to be monitored and I needed a vaginal examination.

During my examination, I started to get discomfort and cramping, the nurse looked at me and said that the discomfort I was feeling was them doing a stretch and sweep. Not once was I asked if it was ok for them to do that. I looked towards my partner for support and was in shock. Once the nurse left the room I burst out crying. I had discussed with my partner earlier that day that if they offered a stretch and sweep I didn't want one. I wasn't given a choice, consent was not obtained and I felt violated.

Two days after this I went into labour, my labour was good but the baby had to be taken to NICU due to some complications and I was sent to the ward. I spent 5 days there, and to say what was meant to be some of the best days of my life, I felt turned into the worst.

I was not explained what neonates was or what the routine was. On the second day I was basically given a two-minute demonstration on how to hand express and got told this is what you need to do, nobody sat and took the time. I didn't know how to breastfeed my baby or if I was allowed to as nobody in the neonates or maternity ward explained anything.

On the third day, I was basically thrown a pump and told to pump. I was given the wrong size nipple covers, I wasn't shown how or where to clean the equipment, how long to pump for, I didn't even know I had to clean equipment.

With lack of support on my 4th day I ended up in tears in neonates after a nurse said to try to settle the baby on the breast, I explained I didn't really know how to as I hadn't been shown. She offered to assist and at this point, I was in terrible pain and discomfort, she asked me if I had been expressing. When I explained I didn't know what I was really doing as I hadn't been shown, they apologised and helped. My breasts at this point were hard and very lumpy, this nurse got my nurse from the ward to come see me. I believe this nurse was an agency and was fantastic, the first person in 4 days to offer proper support and explain things to me and get me nipple covers that fit.

During that night, however, because I had been left so long I suffered really bad engorgement, even the nurses on duty said it was a terrible case. I broke down in tears at how I and my baby had been treated like two different people and not as one. My engorgement was making me feel nauseous and I had a severe headache, the nurses on night duty were caring, the type I expected any new mum should have from day one. They called for a dr to do an order for anti-emetics due to nausea, the doctor refused to do so before seeing me.

When the doctor did come to see me, I explained I had severe headaches and nausea due to engorgement (which had not released in over two hours). The doctor then tried to tell me it normal to have headaches and nausea when a new mum as it can be due to sleep deprivation. I knew what sleep deprivation was and I knew this was not it, I felt like the doctor was being condescending and not listening to me. When the doctor went to the nurse's station I heard them say to the nurses that I'm day 4/5 and I should be home and that if I was at home I wouldn't get this. I wished nothing more to be home.

The co-ordinator on the ward that night/morning came to see me, in my opinion, they looked burnt out and tired, their eyes appeared glassy from what looked to be upset. They apologised for the lack of treatment/care I had received, they said they had zero staff, they were all sent to the labour ward as too many birthing mums and not enough nurses. This left themselves and 2 others for a full ward of new mums. How on earth is care meant to be given when they don't have enough staff to patient ratio?

As well as dealing with this side of things, the baby was in neonates, we had to ring a bell to see our child, sometimes they were so busy the door would not be answered for 10 minutes and had to ring the bell 3 times before being answered. How anxiety-provoking for a new mother not to see her baby.

On one occasion, my partner and I were let in, my baby was not in their spot, I looked around for someone but all were busy when I asked where my baby was they said they were just around the corner and the dr was free for a minute and our baby needed another cannula. I was not prepared for this. Wouldn't it be nice to get a phone call just a minute to let a mother know what's going on and give her the opportunity to comfort her child?

I felt the whole experience was very stressful and it has been very traumatic and I believe played on my mental health. When I got home I felt more supported than what I did in the hospital. The first night home we gave baby their first bath, something that I felt was stolen from us from the hospital as a nurse decided to do it in the middle of one of the nights without asking. 

Based on this experience, if I have another child, I would beg not to be seen by Joondalup Hospital. In my opinion, how sad to feel so strongly about a place that should be offering care and support.

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Response from Brendon Burns, Acting Director of Clinical Services - Speciality Services, Executive, Joondalup Health Campus 9 months ago
Brendon Burns
Acting Director of Clinical Services - Speciality Services, Executive,
Joondalup Health Campus

Senior Nurse Manager

Submitted on 30/03/2021 at 5:00 PM
Published on Care Opinion at 5:00 PM

Dear pegasusjw76,

Thank you for providing your feedback on Care Opinion and giving us the opportunity to read and reflect on your experience. As a hospital dedicated to providing a high standard of obstetric, midwifery and neonatal care we are disappointed to hear of your experience. We apologise that you did not feel supported through this special journey.

You have raised a number of concerning issues and I would like the opportunity to look into these in more detail to see how we can provide a more supportive, nurturing environment.

I appreciate that this is probably an extremely busy and demanding time for you with a newborn, however I would be grateful if you could contact our consumer liaison service on 08 9400 9672 or so they can make an appointment that fits in with you to discuss your experience in more detail. It is only through hearing your story that we can understand exactly where the issues are and work towards improving the services we provide.

I am glad to see that you did feel supported once you returned home and hope that you are enjoying your experience as a new mum.

Yours sincerely

Brendon Burns

Deputy Director of Clinical Services

Joondalup Health Campus

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