"Inadequate staffing over weekends"

About: The Townsville Hospital

(as a relative),

My elderly parent has a stroke recently, and spent 2 weekends in the acute stroke ward of The Townsville Hospital. While the level of care during the week was good, over the weekends the number of staff working ( all staff - nurses, nursing support, therapists and doctors) appears to drop dramatically to perhaps 20% of weekday levels. As a consequence, I believe patients requiring assistance or attention have to wait long periods - sometimes many hours - in considerable discomfort.

I feel doctors are obliged to plan for the lack of staff by taking precautions such as having gastric feeding tubes inserted on a Friday, which would be unnecessary if staffing levels were adequate. Therapy (physio, or, speech) is postponed until the Monday.

I think it is ridiculous to talk about "patient-centred care" when it appears every weekend patients are systematically given very different ( and inadequate ) care compared to weekdays. In a country when the retail and hospitality industries can provide 7 days service, the medical industry is out of step.


Response from Julie Shepherd, Nurse Manager Patient Experience, Patient Services; Clinical Governance Directorate, Townsvillle Hospital and Health Services We are preparing to make a change

Dear PO-OCT12,

Thank you for taking the time to share your story about you and your elderly parent's experience in our stroke ward recently. I am really sorry to read about this and absolutely understand your concern. Please know that we take your feedback seriously as it highlights for us issues that we need to improve.

You have highlighted for us a concern that requires further exploration which I thank you for. Please be assured that I will inform our Medical Service Group Director as well as our Executive Director of Nursing of your feedback as a matter of priority.

I am glad to hear that your elderly parent received good care during the week however, and I do hope they are recovering well.

Once again, I am really sorry that you have experienced our services in this way and you can be reassured that I will share your feedback so we can build improvements based on it.

With kindest regards,

Julie Shepherd

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Update posted by PO-OCT12 (a relative)

Thank you Julie.

May I suggest that having more senior staff working on weekends would make a difference. The current culture appears to be that less capable and more junior staff work weekends, while more senior staff are only around during the week. This culture is part of the problem.

Thanks for listening!

Response from Julie Shepherd, Nurse Manager Patient Experience, Patient Services; Clinical Governance Directorate, Townsvillle Hospital and Health Services We have made a change

Dear PO-OCT12,

Thank you again for your valuable feedback.

Some changes are in progress and I would like to give you an update about a change that is underway in regard to the continuity of care by our very dedicated allied health team on this ward. I met with the Director of Allied Health who welcomed your feedback as evidence that improvements are required. Her team has just recently received some extra funding to employ additional staffing on the weekends for the acute stroke ward.

The motivated Allied Health team will continue to pursue additional funding to increase services on weekends in other wards, which will assist patients requiring physiotherapy and occupational therapy and other allied health services and improve their continuity of care and rehabilitation.

Once again PO-OCT12, thank you for your feedback and I do hope your elderly parent is managing well.

With warm regards,

Julie Shepherd

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