"Unimpressed with ED examination"

About: Northam Health Service / Emergency Department

(as a parent/guardian),

I took my infant child to the Emergency Department (ED) at Northam District Hospital recently due to a large lump on their groin which has enlarged to the size of a golf ball. We arrived around late afternoon and checked in. I told the staff there that my child had a fever which I believe was because they are teething. When I first discovered the lump, I spoke to a GP in Perth, but I tried calling my local GP that day during business hours but had no luck getting an appointment. They did ask for photos of the lump.

When we arrived at Northam ED I explained all of this to the staff member. We then had to wait to be seen, if only I knew it was going to be a 4-hour wait! My child, an infant who is in pain from this lump and a fever, and I believe the doctor was sitting on their computer most of the night, looking at real estate properties instead of seeing us. Before witnessing this, I was unaware that they were the doctor on call.

My child has other previous health problems so we’ve been in hospital a lot. But I was disgusted with this doctor’s treatment of my child. After waiting for so long while this doctor browses on their computer, when we were finally seen they examined my child for 2 minutes and concluded that they do not know what the lump is and said to get an ultrasound done. The worst thing is, they looked at my child (whose legs go backwards as they were born that way) and said, what’s wrong with them?. As a parent, it’s difficult enough to see my child going through this, but the doctor immediately assumed something is wrong with my child, which I felt was rude. Their whole attitude during the 2-minute examination was that they didn’t want us there and made it feel like we were an inconvenience.

I also feel sick and tired of doctors who are supposed to have qualifications, tell me that they don't know what the problem is with my child. I would assume that if you're a doctor you would try and do everything to find the cause of the lump on my child's groin, rather than just say 'I don't know'.

Responses

Response from Regina Michel-Huessy, Acting Regional Director, WA Country Health Service Wheatbelt

Dear encryptionpf97,

Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns following your recent experience with the Emergency Department (ED) at the Northam Health Service.

I was very sorry to read that you felt the doctor caring for your child was rude and dismissive. Our medical team are expected to be empathetic, compassionate and listen to the concerns raised by parents. It is a very stressful time when presenting to ED with a child and I regret that you left feeling unwanted and an inconvenience.

I have asked for feedback from the department regarding the assessment process that should have taken place and have been advised it is reasonable for the doctor to suggest they are unsure of what a lump is, but should have clearly communicated to you the treatment plan which would include arranging further investigations.

Our medical team has been asked to be mindful of their actions within the ED, as they can be misinterpreted by patients and their families as not being engaged.

We would like the opportunity to review your child's presentation in more depth and would appreciate it if you would contact either Mrs Carolynne Ryan, Patient Opinion Coordinator on (08) 9621 0708 or Mr Trenton Greive on (08) 9690 1315.

Again thank you for sharing your story and hope that your child has made a full recovery.

Kind regards

Regina Michel-Huessy

Acting Regional Director - Wheatbelt

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