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"Presenting to an Emergency Department"

About: Geraldton Hospital / Emergency Department

(as the patient),

In the past 12 months, five times I have been in pain so intense that I have reluctantly (just ask my partner) presented myself to the emergency department of my local hospital. Despite some obviously caring nursing staff, each time I was dismissed with little concern other than to be given two panadol tablets (as if I hadn't already tried that). In particular, I particular I feel it was inferred that I was wasting hospital resources. I gathered this impression from the following statements/questions directed at myself and my partner:

a) Did I realise that the emergency department is for emergencies?

b) Did I know that Irritable Bowel Syndrome is psychosomatic pain?

At the time I was in so much pain I wasn’t able to respond to these statements and sat dumbfounded and humiliated. My response now is, I thought acute-on-chronic onset of severe stomach pain for over 6 hours with blood in my stool had the potential to have been an emergency, and that psychosomatic pain is still pain.

The fifth time I presented to Geraldton Regional Hospital, I went at the insistence of my GP. The GP advised that there was little more that they could do as an outpatient and gave me a letter to take to the emergency department, requesting I’d be admitted for further investigations. I took with me the results from an abdominal CT, Gastroscopy and Colonoscopy.

I was seen by the same doctor from which the above-mentioned comments came from, whose name I can provide offline. As I recalled, they said they didn’t understand why I was there and what it was I expected them to do. I told them I had come at the advice of my GP and said I was just desperate to find out what was wrong. I was hopeful that the finding outlined on the CT scan report were useful in pointing in the right direction. I felt the Dr barely glanced at them, dismissed them as not suggestive of anything in particular and seemed very reluctant to discuss them with me. They repeatedly asked me what it was I expected them to do and seemed argumentative and impolite. I did get emotional at their confrontational rapid-fire questions as it became obvious to me that they felt I was wasting their time. I felt they also made it obvious to me that they had no intention of admitting me for follow up tests and suggested I go back and see my psychiatrist and find someone to help with my pain management. They concluded by advising me several times that they were just a lowly resident, sifter and sorter, and that all they would do is write me a script for Tapentadol despite my saying earlier in the conversation that I wanted answers, not just pain relief.

I believe the treatment I have received at Geraldton Regional Hospital by this particular Dr has been heavily influenced by the fact that I have a mental health condition, namely ptsd. I feel this appears to have placed me firmly in the category of attention-seeking, perhaps even drug-shopping, and most definitely as someone whose physical distress is caused by their emotional distress and never the other way around. I have a copy of this Dr's discharge report from my latest emergency department visit. In my opinion, it clearly shows their disdain for me and disbelief of the genuineness of my complaint and an awesome lack of empathy toward a suffering fellow human being.

I am an intelligent middle-aged individual, educated to degree level, who has been gainfully employed since I was a teenager and physically healthy until I was approaching my 50s. I currently have two part-time jobs, I care for my partner who has chronic health conditions, I am a part-time carer for my parent who has advanced dementia. I run a household, manage all the finances, pay my bills on time, vote when required, ensure my partner and parent get all to all their medical appointments, and in my spare time try to eat healthily and exercise. I am a high-functioning individual who lives with ptsd and depression. It is true that in the past 4 years my physical and mental health has declined dramatically and I have needed some significant help, but some of my treatment in our health care system has been appalling. In my opinion, a less strong person would not have survived it.

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Response from Derek Fraser, Operations Manager Geraldton Hospital, WA Country Health Service 10 months ago
Derek Fraser
Operations Manager Geraldton Hospital,
WA Country Health Service
Submitted on 11/10/2021 at 4:08 PM
Published on Care Opinion at 4:09 PM

picture of Derek Fraser

Dear DeepBlueWell,

Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us about your experience at the Geraldton Hospital Emergency Department. I am very sorry and concerned to read that you felt unheard and dismissed on multiple occasions when you presented to our service. Your experience does not meet our commitment to providing high quality and person-centred care and the concerns you have outlined are not reflective of our values.

Communication and empathy are extremely important in building positive relationships throughout the patient journey and your feedback provides us with valuable information about improvements that we can make in this area. I would like to let you know that I have organised for the WACHS Patient Experience and Community Engagement team to provide training on the importance of compassion in healthcare at our upcoming managers' team meeting.

I was saddened to read that you felt that the way you were treated was because of your mental health condition. The WA Country Health Service Midwest aims to provide accessible, safe, high-quality care for everyone. Accessible healthcare is a human right and all people should feel that they can attend the emergency department and receive appropriate medical care and advice when required. I will ensure that the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights are visible and available in the Geraldton Hospital Emergency Department so that all patients and staff are reminded of these important rights.

My name is Derek Fraser and I am the Operations Manager at Geraldton Hospital and I would like you to know that I am taking the concerns you raised very seriously. To allow me to investigate your feedback further I would be very grateful if you would contact me on 9956 2369 or via email at Any call or email will be very welcome.

I would also like to acknowledge the complex family care needs that you mentioned, and the additional stress you may be under providing care to your partner and parent. Our day therapy unit offers education to support the families and carers of people with dementia and our A/Aged and Community Care Manager Narelle Dennett would be very happy to provide you with further information on available services that may support you in your caring role. Ms Dennett can be contacted on 9956 2311 or emailed at

I would also like to take this opportunity to let you know that we have a process in place for patients and their families and carers to escalate any concerns they might have about the healthcare they are receiving. The Call and Response Early (CARE) call process enables people to request urgent assistance when they are concerned about their health and feel that their healthcare team has not fully recognised their changing health condition. When a CARE Call is made, a senior staff member listens to the concerns of the person making the CARE Call and makes a full assessment of the patient’s situation. The senior staff member then liaises with the treating medical team and other health care providers as required. The CARE call phone number is 1800 316 729 and all calls are very welcome. If you would like further information about CARE Call, please visit the WACHS Website at:

I would like to assure you that Geraldton Hospital is genuinely committed to listening and learning from the experiences of our patients and their families and carers I am very grateful to receive your feedback.

I hope that we hear from you soon.

Kind regards

Derek Fraser

Operations Manager

Geraldton Hospital

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