"Disappointing treatment of our toddler."

About: Princess Margaret Hospital for Children

(as a parent/guardian),

Please forgive my following rant, I’m not used to complaining. I just can't let this one go. I was absolutely disgusted with the level of organisation, treatment and care given to my toddler recently at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children.

My toddler trapped his finger in his nappy bin and pulled the skin off the top of their middle finger. The wound looked superficial so we made sure our toddler could move their finger, cleaned and dressed it. We cleaned, dressed and checked its movement daily. A few days went by, the finger was healing well but our toddler wasn’t extending it fully. We thought our toddler was just protecting it because it was sore.

We then had a visit with the GP for a vaccination and she seemed quite concerned with the fact that my toddler wasn’t extending their finger on their own and suggested they might have tendon damage which would need surgery. (The mention of surgery immediately sent my spouse and I into fits of self-condemnation. How could we have missed this, we are such bad parents! ). She phoned and spoke to plastics at PMH to arrange an appointment for us and then gave us a referral letter for a doctor in the Plastics department at PMH and we were to take our child in the next day at 8: 30. We were warned my toddler should not eat anything past dinner that day in case they needed surgery.

Now this is a long story so I have selected the Top Five biggest issues we encountered (there are many more, please contact me for more details):

1. My toddler went without food for 23 ½ hours and it seemed that nobody cared! At each point throughout the day and in every hospital department we visited I believe my child was put to the bottom of the pile. Older children, less severe cases, patients who arrived after us all prioritised over my toddler.

2. We sat in the emergency department (ED) hallway for 2 ½ hours for no apparent reason – Now I can’t complain about the ED staff, they were pleasant and helpful (especially the volunteer who got us a colouring in book). But why were we made to wait there? I don’t understand.

3. The ‘cream of the issue crop' the doctor from plastics, in my opinion is rude, unhelpful, dismissive and useless. Our first issue occurred in the ED, when we were told by the ED Doctor that someone from plastics would come by to assess our toddler, the 'Plastics' doctor turned up, assessed a teenager who had arrived an hour after us and had just been rolling a cigarette with his bad hand, the doctor then left. The ED doctor returned and said that plastics didn’t have time to send anyone, even though the doctor from 'Plastics' had just been there. Huh? I believe we then got moved to Plastics bottom of the pile again and our toddler hadn't eaten for 17 hours? My wife complained and got us bumped from last to 4th in the queue. Then guess who walks in…yes… the doctor from 'Plastics'. The doctor looked at my toddler’s hand, didn’t touch it, just opened their hand in front of our toddler so they'd do the same?  In my view the doctor is condescending, rude and basically made us out to be terrible parents, while saying our toddler definitely needed surgery, which they then told us may not work as 5 days had passed since this injury. But will get The Boss to come and confirm? The boss never arrived in plastics. We then got moved to surgical.

4. The Boss, who we had been referred (we had a letter and everything) to see, did not assess our toddler for almost 8 hours – They eventually assessed our child later in the day for 5 minutes, on the surgical ward just before surgery. Yes my toddler was already in the little surgical P.J's, had been distressed having numbing cream applied to their hands ready for a drip and after waiting 8 hours, the doctor cleared our toddler - no surgery! What?

5. I felt that at no point was the well-being of my toddler considered. They were crying from lack of food. Nobody asked if our toddler was ok. Our toddler had a temperature from their very recent vaccination and nobody seemed to care. Our toddler sat in hallways and waiting rooms for 8 hours and was offered nothing, no bed, no blanket, no place to sleep, no support.

The only good thing to come out of the ordeal, is that my toddler proved yet again, what an amazing kid they are. To go through what they did and still smile at the end of it when a kind nurse gave them a much deserved ice-cream after 23 ½ hours of starvation, is inspiring.

There are two outcomes that we would like:

1. We were given a card saying we are to present back at the Plastics Clinic on a particular date, no time is stated. We would like a guaranteed appointment time that my child will be seen by the most senior plastics doctor.

2. We would like our complaint taken seriously and escalated to the full extent with someone contacting us to enable us to provide all the details of our experience. We would then like feedback on how the issues highlighted will be addressed so that no other family should experience what we did.

Responses

Response from Sue Peter, Child and Adolescent Health Service - WA

picture of Sue Peter

Dear disgusted parent,

Thank you very much for your honest feedback about your recent experiences at PMH. I am genuinely sorry and disappointed to hear what has happened during your recent visit and how we have made you feel.

I would like to apologise that your child was left to fast for such a long period of time, and that our level of communication with your family throughout your journey was lacking. I am pleased that the Child and Family Engagement team have been working with you to help address your concerns and a guaranteed appointment time with a senior plastics consultant has been arranged. Please be reassured that this matter is being taken extremely seriously. We endeavour to meet the needs of families and work with the staff to provide honest feedback that can prompt change. We hope that our recent efforts to meet your requests have provided you with reassurance of our commitment to providing exemplary care.

I have fed back your experience to our Heads of Department within both the Emergency Department and Plastics, and have asked them to reinforce with their teams the importance of effective, ongoing communication – not only with our patients and families, but also with each other. These themes are key priorities for us, we continue to work with all of our teams to ensure that patients and families have a positive experience, each and every time.

Once again, on behalf of all staff at PMH, thank you so much for taking the time to share your family’s experience at our hospital and I would like to wish you and your family all the best for the future.

Sue Peter

Acting Executive Director
Princess Margaret Hospital for Children

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