Friday, February 06, 2009


Brisbane hospitals turn away emergency patients

The lack of public hospital capacity has caused overflows at private hospitals too

The emergency room meltdown that created chaos across Brisbane hospitals yesterday looks set to continue today with two hospitals already in strife. Shortly before 7.30am Wesley Hospital was placed on bypass until further notice and Caboolture Hospital has issued a capacity alert. The situation is expected to continue to midday, meaning paramedics can expect lengthy delays at the hospital and should take patients elsewhere. Yesterday half a dozen emergency rooms at major hospitals were forced to turn away patients on the same day because they were full. Six hospitals around the city issued capacity alerts as a flood of high priority patients threatened to overwhelm services stretched to the limits.

The chaos left stressed ambulance officers trying to care for people in their vans. The drama began at 8.30am when Queensland Ambulance Service was advised the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital was on "patient bypass", with all except for trauma or critically ill patients being redirected to other hospitals. Twenty minutes later, QAS was advised Redland Hospital was also experiencing significant delays and paramedics were told to use other facilities. At noon, the RBWH was able to accept patients again, but then The Wesley Hospital was put on complete bypass until midnight, meaning it could accept no emergency patients. Then for varying periods during the day the Princess Alexandra, Logan and Redcliffe hospitals were all placed on high-capacity alert.

A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the peak in demand could not be put down to any particular event, but rather was due to a coincidence of a large number of high priority patients presenting at once.

A frazzled nurse from the Wesley, who withheld her name for fear of losing her job, described the situation as "meltdown". "Today is out of control, our departments are in complete meltdown," the nurse said. "What is scary is that there is no good reason for it - it isn't a terribly hot day, it isn't flu season, there is no outbreak of disease, we just don't have enough resources."

Ambulance union spokesman Kroy Day said the lack of hospital resources meant it was "only a matter of time before someone dies in a van". He warned that having multiple hospitals on capacity alerts meant paramedics could be left caring for patients in their vans for up to four hours. "If this is what we are seeing on a mild summer's day, I hate to imagine the trouble we'll be in when flu season rolls around," he said.

When asked about the RBWH being on bypass, Health Minister Stephen Robertson blamed a record amount of elective surgery patients.


Angry doctor throws baby at Qld. public Hospital

A baby at a Queensland hospital was assaulted by a doctor who lost his temper when the child wouldn't stop wriggling, and an elderly patient was left to die in a hallway after being denied proper treatment, according to allegations made to the Crime and Misconduct Commission. Three hospital staff have sought whistleblower protection after detailing allegations of gross medical neglect and incompetence, overcrowding, bullying, intimidation and cover-ups at the Bundaberg Hospital.

A highly qualified nurse who spoke to The Courier-Mail told how she was repeatedly made to falsify records to hide lengthy waiting times in the emergency department. She said triage cases were improperly and dangerously downgraded because of understaffing. She said a troubled teenager who waited five hours without seeing a doctor ran away and slashed her wrists. And a doctor said he was too busy to see a boy who had been stabbed in the leg in a suspected child abuse case. The cases are among 100 serious and minor procedural errors on the hospital's prime reporting database.

Dismissed as a troublemaker and frustrated at the lack of response, the nurse and two others took complaints to Burnett MP Rob Messenger, who first raised allegations against the hospital in Parliament in 2005. "They have made allegations which lead me to reasonably suspect misconduct by a number of public officials," Mr Messenger said. He called for an inquiry, saying it was clear patients and employees of Bundaberg Hospital were "in continuing danger of physical and psychological danger".

The CMC was told the doctor threw the baby on its back and twisted its arm after angrily shouting, "Keep him still". It is believed the child suffered bruising but was not seriously hurt. The elderly man who died on the trolley was refused acute care after his triage rating was downgraded.

"Good nurses and doctors and administration officers who work miracles every day are being placed under unbelievable pressure by a government that won't properly resource staff," Mr Messenger said. He said the $41.1 million upgrade promised by the Beattie-Bligh governments had not happened. "They have spent $8.6 million and instead of the 30 extra beds promised, we got five. There is clear evidence of understaffing and underfunding." Mr Messenger said there were more beds at Bundaberg hospital in 1969 than there were now.

The nurse making the allegations said she believed nothing much had changed at Bundaberg since events that sparked a royal commission. "Patients are still abused and refused proper treatment, and they still have the gall to smooth the whole disgusting mess over with half-truths and convenient forgetfulness," she said.


Clerks 'given nurses' duties' at notorious Bundaberg Hospital

Lots of covering up going on but some whistleblowers are coming out. An independent enquiry is needed

CLERKS with no medical training were allegedly made to bandage wounds and assess patients at Bundaberg Hospital's emergency department. The clerks were also asked to perform other nursing duties such as putting ice on patients suffering strains, the Crime and Misconduct Commission has been told.

The Courier-Mail reported yesterday that staff at the hospital sought official whistleblower protection after detailing allegations of gross medical neglect and incompetence, overcrowding, bullying, intimidation and cover-ups. The couple at the centre of the latest allegations successfully sued the hospital, said Julie Bignall, state secretary of the Australian Services Union clerical division. "We pursued work cover claims for stress and psychological injury," she said. "Their WorkCover claims got up. They are now keen to go back to work." Ms Bignall said she was annoyed the allegations against the hospital had been made public by Member for Burnett Rob Messenger.

He took detailed accounts of hospital shortcomings to the CMC. There were allegations a doctor had cruelly mistreated a baby and at least one elderly patient had been left to die on a trolley. Mr Messenger said it was his duty to expose misconduct and accused the union of pressuring whistleblowers to withdraw their statements to the CMC.

Ms Bignall denied this. "We didn't put pressure on them," she said. "We just don't recommend they go to politicians."

The controversy widened yesterday when more nurses came forward with specific allegations against the hospital. There were also fresh claims that staff complaints and patient records had been manipulated to hide hospital shortcomings.

Mr Messenger said he spoke to another nurse who claimed she was denied promotion because she gave evidence at an earlier inquiry. "It's payback time for her," he said.

State Health Minister Stephen Robertson said the allegations were being taken seriously. He said two cases, that an elderly man had been left to die and a doctor had assaulted a baby, were both investigated 12 months ago. "They were investigated at the time they were made by the Queensland Health Ethical Standards Unit [The notoriously corrupt Queensland Health bureaucracy investigating itself! What a laugh!] and they were found not to have been sustained," he said. But heads would roll if health investigators found there had been cover-ups, he said

Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg questioned how Mr Robertson as the minister did not know of the claims when they came up. "They of course are troubling allegations and the CMC needs to investigate them," he said.


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