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"Inappropriate Christmas Decorations for People with incontinence"

About: Fremantle Hospital and Health Service / Geriatric Medicine Department & Wards V5&V6

(as a relative),

This is a complaint my family has with the Christmas decorations in the lift foyer on Ward V5 at Fremantle Hospital.

Our parent has been ill for most of this year and a patient at Fremantle Hospital for a lot of this time.

With disgust, we see that the staff have decided to turn Christmas into a joke by decorating a commode chair and a Christmas tree with adult nappies and other toileting products. The words “Give the gift of continence this Christmas” and “tis the season to be continent” is prominently placed with the commode and tree. We find this offensive, humiliating and degrading to the elderly patients on the Ward. (Please note I have photos if you require)

Christmas is a time for family, kindness and joy - this offensive joke is upsetting for family members who are facing a difficult, sensitive and terrible time with their loved one’s decline/illness. Elderly patients are vulnerable and they would feel humiliated enough with their condition day to day without having to put up with someone’s idea of a joke.

We request that the offending items be removed immediately and a simple Christmas tree be placed there instead. We also request that a staff development session be organised to reiterate the values on the sign placed on this Ward RESPECT being a value.

The above email we sent to Fremantle Hospital they advised that this was an education awareness program and they will be leaving the decorations up. 

With respect there is no education material or awareness brochures we request again the decorations are taken down immediately this is very distressing and disappointing to all. 


Response from Janet Zagari, Executive Director Transformation, South Metropolitan Health Service, South Metropolitan Health Service

picture of Janet Zagari

Dear TNP,

Thank you for your story. Firstly I wanted to say I am sorry to hear of the poor health of your loved one; it must be a difficult time for you and your family. I am also sorry that the choice of decorations has caused offence and distress to you all and let you know all decorations involving continence related products have been removed.

Every year, in preparation for Christmas, the staff on each ward in the hospital choose a theme for decorations. Most areas include some personalisation in the theme, such as hand made decorations or pictures of staff in Christmas outfits. Ward V5 cares for elderly patients who have suffered a stroke or have another condition which means that they need a period of rehabilitation in order to regain the greatest level of independence possible for them. The staff are passionate about caring for these patients.

For some patients, one aspect of rehabilitation can be learning to manage incontinence. The intention of the staff was to normalise this - some patients have to deal with feelings of shame about their incontinence, and talking about it openly as a normal part of the disease condition can help reduce those feelings. I am sorry that this was not the experience for your family and on reflection the decorations were inappropriate.

I thank you for taking the time to provide feedback, both here and directly to the hospital. I can be contacted on if you would like to chat about this further.

Kind regards

Janet Zagari

A/Executive Director

Fiona Stanley Fremantle Hospital Group

  • {{helpful}} {{helpful == 1 ? "person thinks" : "people think"}} this response is helpful

Response from Patient Opinion, Patient Opinion Australia

Dear TNP

Due to some technical issues, staff at South Metropolitan Health Service (SMHS) did not receive notification of your story until 04/01/2018.

As a result, the response from the service was delayed. This was not due to any fault of the staff at SMHS, as they were not aware of the publication of your story.

Patient Opinion sincerely apologises to both yourself and the staff at SMHS for any upset or inconvenience this has caused.

Kind regards,

The Patient Opinion Team

  • {{helpful}} {{helpful == 1 ? "person thinks" : "people think"}} this response is helpful