"Experience at Fracture Clinic"

About: Angliss Hospital / Specialist (Outpatients) Clinics

(as a parent/guardian),

Recently I attended the Fracture Clinic located at the Angliss Hospital Community Rehabilitation Centre with my toddler, who has a broken leg.  My appointment was scheduled for 10:15am, which I was informed of only via text message.  When I arrived at 10:15am I reported to the receptionist as she advised me to wait in the seating area.  

I waited with my toddler for an hour, without any indication as to the likely waiting time either when I was informed of the booking via text message or when I attended reception, or at any stage during the waiting period.  During this same period, every other patient in the fracture clinic waiting area had been attended to and at least one patient had arrived after us and been seen, and so I was concerned that there may have been an oversight or other mistake leading to my son not being seen by a medical professional.  So I then approached the reception desk and noted that I had been waiting with my toddler for an hour and I couldn't wait much longer given my child's age and their need to have lunch and have a nap.  The receptionist told me that they were short of one doctor, and also because they were an outpatient clinic the wait times could be very long. Without any idea of what the relative term 'very long' meant to her, I asked if an hour was very long in the context.  She then said that it could be up to three hours.  At this point, I became frustrated, and said that it was unrealistic to expect a toddler to wait for three hours and my child needed to have lunch and have a nap, and also said that if anyone had informed me that the waiting time would be so long I could have planned ahead.  The receptionist responded by querying if I received a letter before the appointment (I hadn't), telling me she had (number removed) children, and then telling me that I could take my toddler to the GP.  That's it - she offered no apology (or even hint of compassion), no information as to where in the queue we were (i.e. were we next to be seen?). For all I know, a doctor may have called my toddler's name out a minute after we left). There was no explanation of what exactly our GP would need to do. Does our GP need to order a further x-ray?  Do I need to contact Angliss and get them to send through records to our GP?

I also note (although I believe that everyone should receive a better standard of service and respect regardless of their personal state) I have a broken toe, and this would have been fairly obvious considering I was wearing flip flops, had a bandaged foot and was limping around the waiting area as I carried my toddler from our seat to the kids play area. In short, I was in a considerable amount of discomfort and pain.

This experience was both frustrating and personally offensive and upsetting to me, for multiple reasons:  

Firstly, I believe it is unacceptable for a first world healthcare clinic which operates by scheduled appointments with patients of any age (but particularly with very young children), to allow wait times to extend to three hours without good reason.  It isn't the Emergency Department, where everyone understands and expects to wait as long as we need to given the system of triage that operates in that environment. 

Secondly, given this outpatient clinic is for whatever reason unable to provide a timely service, it is incumbent on the hospital to adequately inform patients (or their guardians, as applicable) of the likely wait time so they can plan ahead or make other arrangements.  In my case, had I known this vital piece of information ahead of the appointment, at the very least I would have packed lunch for my toddler and brought a selection of toys and books to try to keep them occupied.  However, given my child's own schedule for meals and naps, it's more likely I would have asked to either reschedule for an earlier appointment or arranged to speak with a healthcare professional working at the Clinic to enquire about the specifics of what the appointment entailed and whether and how I could get an equivalent service from our GP.

Finally, on a personal note, I was deeply hurt when the receptionist responded to my commenting that it was unrealistic to expect a toddler to wait for three hours through their own lunch and nap time with the statement - I have two or more children - without any context by way of another statement such as - I understand this is difficult - or - I'm sorry you weren't told of the wait time.  I was left with the distinct impression that I was being put in my place, as if I was inferior to her as a mother and/or I was being unreasonable.  This feeling was compounded by the fact that I recently had a missed miscarriage at 18 weeks into my pregnancy which ended in induced labour.  I don't need to be reminded that I don't have (number removed) children - this is a fact which I'm acutely and painfully aware of.  

In summary, I do expect to receive a basic level of respect, information, and compassion from people employed in the healthcare sector, particularly front line workers.  Unfortunately, my experience at Angliss Hospital Community Rehabilitation Centre today fell far below that threshold, and I'm seeking answers as to why that is, and what will be done by way of remediation to ensure that other patients at this clinic receive a better standard of information and care in the future.


Response from David Plunkett, Chief Executive, Eastern Health We are preparing to make a change

picture of David Plunkett

Dear Mum with broken toe

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with your toddler at the fracture clinic located in the Angliss Hospital Community Rehabilitation Centre.

I would like to sincerely apologise for the negative experience you had and agree with you we clearly need to do much better including making sure our values of Patients First, Kindness, Respect, Excellence, Agility and Humility are practiced each and every day.

You have raised very valid points and as such, I would like to invite you to contact the Patient Relations Advisors in the Eastern Health Centre for Patient Experience either via email at feedback@easternhealth.org.au or by calling 1800 EASTERN. Through doing this, we will be able to undertake a detailed review of both the care of your toddler and also your experience when attending the clinic.

Please accept my apologies again and I hope your toddler's leg is improving. If your questions regarding ongoing care are outstanding, I'm sure we would be able to follow these through (again through making contact as above).

With kind regards and hope we hear from you soon.


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Response from David Plunkett, Chief Executive, Eastern Health We have made a change

picture of David Plunkett

Dear Mum with broken toe

Thank you again for your feedback. I'd also like to thank you for speaking with Clare, the Nurse Unit Manager of Specialist Clinic services at the Angliss Hospital.

Whilst at times we are unable to prevent a specialist needing to see other patients urgently, we have taken on board the sentiment mentioned - if only I had known, I could have prepared.

We have improved our information to patients in the clinic about the potential for appointments being delayed due to urgent patient needs and also prior to attending the clinic through the standard messaging system we have in place.

Whilst these changes won't change the behaviour of staff, as you experienced, they should go some way regarding making sure all are aware of the potential things that might happen.

These changes are but some of the work we are doing in Specialist Clinics right across Eastern Health to improve the experience of patients and families and I hope that if you ever have need to use these services into the future you will see these improvements in place!

Thank you again and kind regards


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