"Appointment Issues"

About: Townsville Hospital and Health Service

(as the patient),

I had an appointment recently with Mental Health to have a medication review. I have waited over a month for this appointment. I turned up early to check in and was told that that appointment had been cancelled late the previous afternoon. After having an extreme reaction to that and my feelings out of control I became unwell. I refused to talk to anyone until I had calmed down a little. Someone from the service called later that night to see if I was okay and to see if I would rebook as they had an appointment in the next few days. Reluctantly I took that appointment, not wanting to be let down again by the very system that is meant to be helping me, not making things worse.

I turned up early to my appointment today to check in, they checked my details and told me to take a seat, I breathed deeply and thought OK maybe last time was just bad luck. Then the same person that saw me last week at the desk called me over and said that because I was late the doctor wouldn't see me. I immediately said....no way not again, do you not remember what happened last time - they did but said I was late. I told them I was not late, my appointment was confirmed yesterday and I am here early. They then said I was sent a text to confirm, I’m not sure if that was because they had suddenly changed my appointment or if they say it was meant to be earlier. I did not get any text.

I stormed out of there again. I went from 0 to 100 in 2 seconds. I rang my counsellor. They spent 2. 5 hours on the phone with me trying to calm me down, trying to get me to commit to them that I would go home and we would make a plan tomorrow. I am so disappointed in the system, the one that is set up to help those that are unwell, those that really need it. I feel it’s not the workers on the front line, but the ones sitting behind desks making decisions about patient care without seeing patients - putting everyone in the one box. I have many diagnoses but I am not the same as the person beside me. I cannot be given the same medical treatment as the next person because my experience is different, my reactions are unique to me and my care should be too.


Response from Julie Shepherd, Nurse Manager Patient Experience, Patient Services; Clinical Governance Directorate, Townsvillle Hospital and Health Services

Dear Suffering

Thank you for providing us with your story. I am very disappointed to hear of your poor experience with our Mental Health service. I agree that it was not right that your appointment was cancelled without you being informed. To experience further unsatisfactory practice, without having seen the doctor the following day, was obviously very frustrating for you.

I apologise to you for this occurring.

Please know that this is not our normal practice.

Having to go through this stress when you are feeling the way that you have explained, is unfair on your overall wellbeing and I think it is important that we act directly with you to salvage this situation and to come to some resolution for you.

As you have contacted us with your previous experiences, and you have been pleased with our attempts to resolve and provide you with a plan of care, we will inform the Team Leader of the Acute Care Mental Health team to make contact with you.

Your feedback on your appointment issues will call for a review on how we communicate and coordinate appointment scheduling for our patients. Understanding these processes from the patients’ perspective is vital for us to respect and acknowledge.

Again, I thank you for telling us of your experience which helps us to see where we could do better.

I will provide details of your story to the Director of Mental Health Services today.

If you have any future or further concerns that you would like to talk about please contact our Patient Liaison Service directly on 44331074.

With kind regards,

Julie Shepherd

  • {{helpful}} {{helpful == 1 ? "person thinks" : "people think"}} this response is helpful

Update posted by Suffering (the patient)

Firstly, I'd like to remind the readers that it was not just one appointment but 2 and within 4 days of each other. I was stunned that the staff thought a 'sorry about that' would be enough. Given that the staff that contacted me, were aware of my circumstances and should have maybe approached this a different way. I know, at the time, they were doing their best but my life was at stake on both of these days, the second time being much worse.

I was very happy with the response and quick action from my previous experience with Patient Opinion but this time is much different for me. After the last experience with Mental Health my counselor has taken over all communications with them because I have truly lost all faith in the very system I am meant to trust and rely on in times of struggle and weakness.

I have to put it out there that this is not the only problem with the Townsville Mental Health System. Their in-patient care is much worse and has also left many traumatizing memories and is the reason I don't like going into hospital, where I should be able to receive treatment but instead you get ignored, medicated and sometimes treated with disrespect.

I am not sure how this can be fixed or made better, the issues with the system are much bigger than this post.

Response from Julie Shepherd, Nurse Manager Patient Experience, Patient Services; Clinical Governance Directorate, Townsvillle Hospital and Health Services

Dear Suffering,

Thank you again for your feedback and I am really sorry to hear how your experience with our Mental Health Service has caused you such to have traumatizing memories.

The issue you have described is of great concern and it highlights the importance for us that, as a health service, we must listen to our patients’ stories, as they are the ones who provide us with valid evidence to understand what we could do better.

I would like to remind you ‘Suffering’, that your voice does matter and telling your story to us has made a difference for your care previously, so, I would encourage you to make contact again with us, directly to discuss your experience in more detail.

I have informed the Nurse Manager of Patient Liaison of your feedback and encourage you to contact her on 44331074 to discuss further.

Again, I am sorry for how your experience has left you feeling, but please know that your feedback can help direct the decisions we make in how we care for you.

With kind regards,

Julie Shepherd

  • {{helpful}} {{helpful == 1 ? "person thinks" : "people think"}} this response is helpful

Update posted by Suffering (the patient)

I am reading your response Julie and I want to believe that telling my story could make a difference or could possible lay framework to have our system changed but I can't see this happening any time soon. For change to happen the current system needs a complete overhaul, all mental health workers need to be retained and some need to be reminded of why they choose Mental Health as a career. I can't speak for anyone else but I can give myself a voice and what I need heard is that when I am unwell, making choices I can normally manage can be impossible. I have a life changing experience coming up this year - I will be facing head on the traumas that are the very reason for my mental health. I am realistic in how this will probably impact my life short term and how bad things might become.

Knowing all this and the experiences I have had over the last 5 years with Townsville Mental Health I am very worried about my mental health because I don't believe there is a health system here that will be able to help me safely through this. I have my counsellor and my doctor on board for support but what is there after hours?? When the nights are dark and long and lonely??? I don't want to be shoved involuntary into a hospital where I am medicated and kept temporarily safe. I want to be heard and understood, I want support and to be safe all of the time. I want people that know and understand what is going on for me.

I made the first step to set up that first appointment to be reviewed because I am trying to set myself up to come through all this as best I can, but every step has been painful and frightening and I have absolutely NO faith in our system. It has not just been this last few months, that was just the last straw. I am going to talk with my counsellor about this and see if I should make that call...