"Poor communication regarding alcohol use"

About: Royal Melbourne Hospital - Royal Park

(as the patient),

I arrived at emergency and presented to the triage nurse, telling them what I’ve been experiencing for the past 12/24 hours. I came in for an aggressive migraine. Symptoms included driving on the wrong side of the road, forgetting where I am or what I was doing, fainting. I was brought in and triaged accordingly. 

They ask my history, I tell them about migraines, PCOS, asthma. They ask about alcohol and smoking use, I answer that I drink socially, and I don’t smoke. 

Fast forward to the next day, I have an EEG done and I think a CT of the brain. The consultant and registrar come in and prescribe me thiamine for misuse of alcohol and basically send me on my way. 

I went back to my GP who knows me and my past extremely well because I’m very open about what I do and how I do things and they could see that I was hurt and angry. My GP told me about the discharge summary and how it was suggested to them to send me to a counsellor for my ‘alcohol abuse’. My GP also stated that it had happened to two of their other patients and it also happened at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

I’m so annoyed that they’ve done this, this is now on my permanent record and now every hospital I go to, will believe the discharge summary over my own truth. I will never be taken seriously again when I present in a similar situation. I will be treated differently because it’ll show up as ‘patient has a history of misuse of alcohol’. 

Responses

Response from George Braitberg, Executive Director Strategy, Quality and Improvement, Melbourne Health

picture of George Braitberg

Dear SecretlyANurse,

Thank you for your feedback. I am very sorry that you believe that you were given an incorrect discharge diagnosis. It is apparent from the investigations that you describe (EEG and CT scan) the Emergency Department (ED) staff did perform an appropriate work up to exclude a neurological (brain related) cause for the symptoms you describe prior to your presentation to hospital. Migraine, as you may know, is often called the "great mimicker" because of the number of different ways it can present.

As you can appreciate I cannot make any other observations without knowing more details about your presentation. It is certainly not usual practice for any of our clinical staff to arrive at any diagnosis without careful and due consideration. However, if we have not been accurate on this occasion I would welcome the opportunity to investigate this further with our ED staff.

Could I ask that you contact our consumer liaison staff at the following email address consumerliaison@mh.org.au. Hopefully we can address your concerns and, if necessary, make any adjustments to the discharge summary and medical record.

Regards,

Prof George Braitberg

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