"My stepfather's stay in hospital"

About: Royal Perth Hospital

(as a relative),

My stepfather is deaf and over the years has required a few visits due to various health issues to RPH. Over the past 12 months he has been seen in the high risk anaesthetic clinic x 2, the surgery clinic x 2, the pre-op clinic, then had surgery, a stay in ACU (Acute Care Unit) and the wards, a readmission x 2 and on each of these occasions I have witnessed what appears to be a complete lack of understanding and attention to detail required when someone is deaf. I have sat there whilst medical staff (nursing, medical and allied health) speak to my stepfather seemingly without acknowledging that he cannot hear them. When told he is deaf and cannot hear they just raise their voice and in my opinion, speak to him like he is an idiot. It seems that no one listens when told he is deaf and in order to communicate with him you need to write everything down, they just continue to shout at him. I provided paper and explicit instructions on communication every time I attended appointments with him or visited him on the ward and not once did I see a sign above his bed to indicate he was hard of hearing or even paper or a whiteboard that the staff could use to communicate with him. I believe they labelled him uncooperative and difficult because he wouldn't do what they asked but no one bothered to write down any information for him to read to understand what was happening with him, what the plan of care was, what the staff would like him to do (i.e. roll over). I accompanied him to CT and wrote everything down explaining why he was to have a CT and what he would need to do in the CT scanner and the Radiologist commented on how compliant and good natured he was and how easy it was to move him and that previously no one had bothered to write anything down to tell him what was going on, they just yelled.

When the doctor asked me why he didn't speak AUSLAN and I responded with do you speak French, he couldn't understand that not all deaf people speak AUSLAN just like most Australians don't speak a second language yet this should not prevent them from being treated like all other patients. Clearly, in my opinion, the staff do not understand that RPH has a DAIP (Disability Access & Inclusion Plan) and once again in my opinion, clearly this is not adhered to. Because it seems that no one cared enough to take time to speak to my stepfather through written word. From my perspective, he was labelled as uncooperative and discharged without full care as indicated by his re-admission twice for the same issue as no one listened to him or took the time to communicate.

There was one doctor who took the time in clinic to write everything on a whiteboard, he was kind, caring and considerate… one in the many we have encountered.

Responses

Response from Lesley Bennett, Executive Director, Royal Perth Bentley Group We have made a change

picture of Lesley Bennett

Dear DAIP,

Thank you for taking the time to share your stepfather’s experience at Royal Perth Hospital (RPH). I am sincerely sorry for the manner in which our staff communicated with him and for any shortcomings he experienced.

RPH is at present rolling out more education for staff to create a better environment that enables patients with a disability to have their diverse needs met. Some of these initiatives include staff engaging in a patient/carer “Walk A Day In My Shoes” program, placing bedside communication boards for patients/carers to detail their needs or any questions to staff, global email education to all staff.

We would really value your opinion on how to improve our service performance for people like your stepfather. Our executive staff member responsible for DAIP is Professor John Buchanan and Professor Buchanan has informed me that he would appreciate your call and any advice you may be able to provide. Professor Buchanan can be directly contacted on 0404 894 394.

Thank you once again for taking the time to share your experience, as direct patient and carer feedback helps us to improve our service delivery. I hope that any future visits to RPH that your stepfather may encounter will be far more positive.

Sincerely
Dr Lesley Bennett
Director of Clinical Services
Royal Perth Bentley Group

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