"Waiting over 8 hours and not being seen"

About: Box Hill Hospital / Emergency Department

(as a parent/guardian),

My adolescent child has been suffering from depression and has been self-harming. A few months ago, they made a cut down the inside of their wrist that required 15 stitches.

I recently heard alerts coming from their phone and noticed a conversation that they were having with another person which was very disturbing and detrimental to their recovery.  As a result, I had a long discussion with my child and confiscated all of their devices. They did not react well.

After a very draining day, I called the Child and Youth Mental Health 1300 number that my child's psychologist had advised me to call in a crisis. After explaining the situation to them, I was advised to go to the Emergency Department at Box Hill in the hope of admitting my child into a psychiatric facility for adolescents.  

After finally convincing my child to come with me to the hospital, we arrived there at night.  The lovely triage nurse kindly advised that there was one other psychiatric patient before us and that if the wait was getting too long, to come and talk to them.  

My child was quietly crying around 3 hours later saying they wanted to go home.  I went back to the counter, but the nurse we spoke to was not around anymore.  Another nurse said that there simply wasn't a bed so we would just have to wait.  

We were getting thirsty but there was no water left in the jugs provided.  There was also a smell of cigarette smoke in the air that seemed to be coming from the air conditioning system.  

An elderly person on a walker came in around 5 hours after we arrived. There was no one at the triage counter so they sat down near the triage area.  The elderly person was there for around 15 minutes but no one came to the triage desk.  

Then this person started yelling out Nurse...  Nurse ... Nurse.  No one responded.  Another patient walked up to the counter and yelled out to a nurse that someone was waiting. A staff member yelled back to tell the patient to take a seat.  Then the elderly person continued to wait for another 10 or 15 minutes until a security guard appeared and asked them if they were being seen to.  When this patient replied that they were not, the security guard sought the attention of a nurse who finally came to speak to the patient.

I could hear that they were telling the patient that it was busy and there would be a long wait.  I heard the person ask if that meant they were telling them they should go home and the nurse said it was up to the patient.  

Throughout the night I made a number of polite inquiries as to how long it may be before we would be seen to and advised them how long we had been waiting.   At times I was advised that a check would be done, but no one came back to me with any further information.  

My child was silently crying more and more throughout the night, asking me to take them home. We were becoming more and more distressed and tired.  After 8 and a half hours of waiting, we had still not been seen to and my child began crying openly, quite loudly.  

I went to the counter and said to the nurse that it is urgent, we need to see someone! The nurse got up but did not come back.  5 or 10 minutes passed.

My child was begging and pleading with me to take them home. Their hair was plastered to their face from the tears. I was extremely distressed.  At this stage, I finally lost faith that we would be seen.  I agreed to take my child home.

The other patient who had called the nurse for the elderly person saw us leaving and looked at us questioningly.  I replied by facing the triage desk and saying loudly that we were leaving because this is s***.

My child fell to the floor, crying hysterically.  I was trying to help them up but they remained there.  A nurse came and was talking to us.  I said to them that we had been waiting for 8 and a half hours! The nurse said that they had some emergencies that night.  I pointed to my child and asked the nurse what this was then? 

My child started banging their head on the floor. At this point I stopped talking to the nurse and tried to get my child up, saying to them that I would take them home.  We walked out of there broken people.  


Response from David Plunkett, Chief Executive, Eastern Health

picture of David Plunkett

Dear bravofe46,

Thank you so much for taking the time to share comments regarding your experience. I was extremely concerned reading about your experience, which sounds very distressing for you and your adolescent child.

I would like to take this opportunity to personally apologise for your overall experience and specifically the amount of time you waited and the lack of information you were getting while you waited. This must have been very frustrating for both you and your adolescent at what had been a very challenging time for you both resulting in your experience that sounds like one that no-one would want.

I would like to offer you the opportunity for further review of your experience and importantly, to work with you regarding what we can do for your adolescent’s health and wellbeing.

To enable us to follow up your particular circumstances, I would like to invite you to contact one of our Patient Relations Advisors in the Eastern Health Centre for Patient Experience either by calling 1800 EASTERN or by emailing feedback@easternhealth.org.au. If you choose to call please be aware that it is possible that the Patient Relations Advisors may be on another call at the time you ring and if so you will be invited to leave a message so they can return your call.

Thank you again and I am hopeful we hear from you soon.

Kind regards


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