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"Pre-chemotherapy appointments: The good and the bad"

About: Bunbury Hospital / Outpatients Clinic St John of God Bunbury Hospital

(as the patient),

I had three appointments at the South West Health Campus all in one day, all related to preparing for chemotherapy to start within a week. Much of my experience that day was very good, and some of it was not good at all.

Firstly, a lung function test at St John of God Hospital. I felt this appointment was good: the person administering the test was prompt, professional, and friendly. I’m sorry that I didn’t get their name.

Secondly, meeting with the Cancer Services nurse, Ashlene, at Bunbury Hospital. In my opinion, this was better than good, it was great. The first appointment finished sooner than anticipated, so we arrived quite early—and Ashlene was happy to see us right away. She answered every question I or my partner had, gave us much information we wouldn’t have thought to ask about, and showed us around the treatment suite. She talked to us clearly and honestly. Everything she did helped us to feel at ease with the upcoming chemotherapy, and I’m glad to have her involved in the process.

Thirdly, seeing the haematologist. This was the low point of the day.

For background, I met with Dr A recently. This was a very good experience: treatment options were described, and information laid out clearly but without dumbing-down. I felt empowered to have a say in my care without fearing that I would make a wrong decision and jeopardise my treatment. We ended with an appointment booked for the same day as my other appointments, a last check-in before treatment begins. This was to be via telehealth as Dr A would not be in Bunbury.

The day before the appointment, Bunbury Hospital called me and said they’d like to move that appointment to an earlier time, as they had some vacant spots. I was fine with this, and the appointment was moved about two hours earlier. I asked if everything else about the telehealth process was unchanged, to which I recall the staff member replied, It’s a telehealth appointment? That worried me.

They said that the doctor was in fact in Bunbury, so the appointment would be face-to-face. In hindsight, I should’ve checked that “the doctor” was Dr A.

On the day of the appointment, before meeting the nurse, I asked about the appointment and confirmed that it was in person at the new time. I returned for it in the afternoon and found the waiting area packed. This worried me too. Being told about 'vacant spots', I had assumed it wouldn’t be busy. But it was only an assumption on my part, not a problem, I felt.

We waited there for an hour before my partner went back to reception to ask what was taking so long. I understand that sometimes hospitals can become unexpectedly busy, but if that were the case I would’ve thought the desk staff would say so. They didn’t, and in fact they seemed at a loss. Then we learned that the appointment was not with Dr A, who was not in Bunbury, but with another Doctor (Dr B). I don’t object to seeing a different doctor, but I like to know about it beforehand! So do doctors, I think.

After another half-hour we got in to see Dr B, who told us, I believe, plainly that they hadn’t known my appointment was moved. They apologised, though I’m not convinced it was their fault. They also needed time to read through the file and find out what was going on, so I felt the appointment wasn’t very informative.

Lastly, I needed a follow-up appointment between the first and second chemotherapy rounds. Dr B gave me the date themselves, but the desk staff said they wouldn’t be available that day and tried to book me in for a week after the second round. Instead, I got an appointment in the right timeframe… a telehealth appointment, with Dr A.

I only hope that the appointment is booked properly. I won’t be taking any suggestions of moving it. (I also hope that the original telehealth appointment was cancelled, and Dr A wasn’t still waiting around for it!)

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Response from Renny Carroll, Senior Project Officer, Outpatient Reform, WACHS South West 8 months ago
Renny Carroll
Senior Project Officer, Outpatient Reform,
WACHS South West
Submitted on 13/09/2021 at 10:34 AM
Published on Care Opinion at 11:13 AM

Dear Teacher T,

Thank you for providing feedback on your recent experience attending outpatient appointments at both SJOG and Bunbury Hospital. I am pleased that you had a positive experience with your lung function test and appointment with the Cancer Services Nurse. I would like to apologise for the negative experience you and your partner experienced with the haematology appointment.

There were obviously some issues on the day of your appointment that affected the smooth running of the clinic and you being seen on time that we will investigate further. In terms of seeing a different doctor, it is not uncommon to be seen by different clinicians in the same clinic from one appointment to another. This is particularly relevant to the haematology service at Bunbury Hospital, as the haematologists travel from the metropolitan area on alternate weeks to conduct face-to-face clinic sessions. They also conduct clinic sessions via telehealth from the metropolitan area on the alternating weeks. This means that patients are regularly seen interchangeably between the two haematologists who work closely together. We apologise if this model was not explained to you but hope that moving forward you will have a seamless experience regardless of which clinician you see.

Your care is very important to us and we would like to gather some more details, so we can investigate the issue further. If you are comfortable discussing the issue, please contact me, Renny Carroll on 0403 936 161 or the Customer Liaison Officer on 9722 1521. Once again, thank you for providing feedback on this issue, as it gives us an opportunity to make improvements to our service delivery and meet the needs of our patients.

Renny Carroll

Senior Project Officer - Outpatient Reform

WA Country Health Service – South West

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Update posted by TeacherT (the patient)

Thank you, Renny.

I should clarify that I was aware there were two different haematologists who visited, and it wouldn’t be a big deal that I saw Dr B after being told it was Dr A… except that Dr B didn’t know I was coming, either, and had to catch up on my situation, so I felt the appointment was not productive.

My experiences since have been much improved. Although it seems there is still a struggle every fortnight to find a booking time for the next appointment, there have been no more undue delays at appointment times.

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