"Left feeling ashamed and distressed"

About: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital

(as the patient),

Before my operation at Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital recently the anesthesiologist came to see me on the ward to discuss my history and any issues there may be with me with the anaesthetic. She was really clear that she wanted to make things as safe and comfortable for me as possible, she was concerned that there might be some issues with my weight and with my Cerebral Palsy, especially with my tendency towards reflux. She wanted to be very careful and lower any risk of complications, so she would put a breathing tube down my throat, and use less anaesthetic to avoid that, she would also make sure that I was given some anti-nausea medication before she brought me out of it to avoid the nausea I usually feel. She also asked about positioning of my body to avoid muscle spasms, and what positions were likely to bring them on. She was excellent, professional, non-judgmental, compassionate and made me feel really comfortable. 

Later, I'm down in the theatre, being introduced to nurses and other staff that will be involved. While I was waiting outside the door to theatre a couple of minutes before being wheeled in, one of the other anaesthetists comes over. Unlike all of the other interactions that day, he was the only one there, no one else was in earshot or part of the conversation. He asked me my weight, as I'd been asked many times over the last couple of days, all for very good medical reasons. I answered, and he just stood there staring seemingly disapprovingly at me for several seconds, and said, as near as I can reconstruct it - should that go up or down? I lay there absolutely gobsmacked not saying anything, and he launched into what I felt was an interrogation of me about what I was doing about my weight. I wanted to tell him off, and yell bloody murder, but I did not want to delay the surgery one minute more. And I hate to admit this, but I wasn't just angry - because I was angry - I was also ashamed that he was treating me like this, and I tried telling him about my CP (Cerebral Palsy) and that it is hard for me to exercise, even though I know I didn't need to explain myself. 
I am feeling all of the shame and distress that I felt all through my childhood when my parents would lecture me on how I walked or moved or breathed, as did the physios and surgeons, and sometimes just random people, over and over and over again.

Due to low energy and high pain levels I very rarely make written complaints, but I feel this needs to be done. I have to have a follow up operation and I do not want this particular doctor involved in that operation.

Responses

Response from Tony Dolan, A/Executive Director, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Osborne Park Health Care Group

picture of Tony Dolan

Dear Purple Boots

Thank you for sharing your and recent experience of care at SCGH with me.

While I am pleased to hear that your initial contact with staff was excellent, professional, non-judgemental and compassionate I am similarly saddened that this experience was not sustained throughout your inpatient stay and was spoiled by interactions with staff later in your patient journey.

SCGH is committed to ensuring that we provide compassionate clinical care to all of our patients. This includes listening with ‘authentic curiosity’ to your story, understanding your circumstance and ensuring that we engage in a way that recognises your individual history and challenges in health care and in life more broadly as it impacts on your treatment.

I will ensure that I provide your feedback to both groups of clinicians involved in your care, those that fulfilled the SCGH motto of ‘We Put Patients First’ and those who require ongoing education in this area.

I understand, as mentioned in your post, that you are concerned about which staff may be involved in your care going forward. I would like to suggest that you contact our Patient Liaison Service on telephone 6457 2867 to discuss your concerns and potential options for resolution.

I am confident that we can provide you with an improved and consistent patient experience throughout your ongoing journey with our service.

Kind regards
Tony Dolan

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