"Having to drive to a Perth hospital due to misdiagnosis"

About: Dalwallinu Health Service / Emergency Department

(as a parent/guardian),

My baby was fussing, not eating, not drinking or sleeping. They had a fever and was crying quite a bit which was unusual for them. I ended up taking my baby to the local hospital at 4pm as I couldn't get into the local doctor. The nurse on call checked him over, looked in ears and throat and asked a lot of questions. The nurse then called thru to the doctor on call that is in Perth. As the doctor couldn't diagnose what was the problem over the camera and the nurse couldn't think of what it would be I was told I needed to drive 3 hours to Perth. As a scared mother, I packed the car and drove to Perth at 7pm. At 10pm I arrived at Joondalup Health Campus and yet again had to wait for a doctor to see us. My baby was then diagnosed at 2am with an double ear and throat infection. We got medication and were discharged. I went and slept at my relative's place and then drove back home in the morning. This 6-hour round trip was very frustrating and unneeded. The nurse on call should have double checked my child or, in my opinion, been trained properly. Very disappointing.

Responses

Response from Sean Conlan, Regional Director, WA Country Health Service - Wheatbelt

Dear Millienmilo

I was concerned to hear about your experience at the Dalwallinu Health Service and thank you for contacting us via Patient Opinion. Feedback is very important, as it helps us to improve the care we provide.

Our nurses are trained to assess and examine patients during their stay in the Emergency Department (ED). This includes examinations like looking at the ears and throat. Based on the assessment, the nurses then either contact the local doctor (when available) or a doctor from the Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS) to obtain a medical opinion and to commence treatment, including the prescription of medication when necessary.

I understand that following assessment by the nurses and referral to the ETS, the ETS doctor was unable to make an accurate diagnosis of your baby’s condition.

On occasion it can be difficult to assess and diagnose exactly what is wrong with a patient, especially in babies. Their distress can make examination via the ETS difficult and therefore when this occurs, it is important that the care is escalated to a hospital where direct examination by a doctor can happen. This may require transfer to a regional centre or a hospital in Perth.

The recommendation by the ETS Doctor for you to go to Perth was the best plan based on the inability to definitively diagnose the problem. The mode of transfer is determined on the patient’s condition, and in this case we are sorry that there was not due consideration given to your child’s condition. We apologise for any distress caused by having to take your child by car to Joondalup.

Whilst private transport was considered suitable, we are sorry we didn’t discuss the options with you and acknowledge your anxiety around having to drive at night. Consideration should have been given to whether referral during the day would have been better to avoid the risks of road travel at night and this should have been discussed with you.

In order for us to be able to learn from your experience and improve our service for others, I would appreciate the opportunity to follow up your concerns in more detail. This will allow us to fully investigate and to understand what we could have done better.

If you feel comfortable, I encourage you to contact Trenton Greive, Operations Manager Western Wheatbelt on (08) 9690 1315 or via email: trenton.greive@health.wa.gov.au or our Patient Opinion Coordinator Carolynne Ryan on (08) 9621 0708 or email Carolynne.ryan@health.wa.gov.au.

I can assure you that your complaint will remain confidential.

I hope your baby has recovered well and look forward to hearing from you soon.

Regards

Sean

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