"Wait period in E&A."

About: Bunbury Hospital / Emergency Department

(as a relative),

My parent is elderly, frail and vulnerable and suffers from pain in their back after a fall last year which resulted in two fractured vertebrae and one crushed one.

In the early afternoon recently, my parent phoned me and said they were not feeling well. I made an appointment with their doctor, but as the doctor was 'squeezing us in', it was not until later in the afternoon that day. I checked this was ok with my parent, and kept in contact with them until I was able to collect them.

We went to the GP who suggested we go to the Emergency Department of our local hospital, Bunbury Regional Hospital. I was hopeful that being mid-week and afternoon, there would not be too long of a wait. How wrong I was.

The place was packed. We went in and sat in the triage area and waited. I'm not sure what would have happened if someone waiting, who was obviously in serious need of medical attention, took a turn for the worse, or perhaps died. But I feel this is exactly what could have happened. My parent was shaking, feeling nauseous and their heart was racing. But we had to wait.

After about 5 people, we saw the Triage Nurse who assigned my parent to 'urgent' which means they should be seen within 30 minutes, but the Triage Nurse advised us that would not be the case.

I saw a person I knew in the waiting room who was in intense pain and whose GP thought it was an infection post a recent surgery. That person had already been waiting for 90 minutes when we took our spot in the waiting room.

And wait we did. I spoke to another parent whose child was trying to vomit, but when they did, they would choke. Another parent whose child had stopped breathing. There were babies, children, middle and older aged people, all in various states of needing medical attention. 

My parent struggled to sit for so long, and tried to stand, but would feel nauseous. I asked at the admin desk whether something could be done, and the staff member suggested my parent could take a pain killer - this despite the fact that my parent didn't have their dentures in because even that made them want to vomit, so swallowing a pill was out of the question.

The staff member did suggest I speak with a nurse and I asked them where I might find one of these.

My friend, who I mentioned above, was seen after 4 hours. They ended up in the hospital for a number of days whilst they dealt with the infection and subsequent pain. The parent with the baby who was choking was seen just before my parent, after about 3.5 hours. We were seen after roughly the same time. 

As my parent has dementia, by the time they were seen, they thought it was due to their back as it had become so painful. My parent entered the hospital without pain, but after hours of waiting in very uncomfortable chairs, with no assistance to allow them to lie down, they were in agony. This was on top of the reason we were there.

I saw the GP the following day and informed them what had happened. The GP said they had been concerned it was sepsis, which in the aged can be very dangerous. Had of it been, who knows what the outcome may have been?

I am an advocate for our health system in Australia, but that night made me so very angry and disappointed. I saw so many people in need of attention, but there weren't the doctors, nurses or beds. And apparently, this is not unusual.

Something has to change - I feel we are expecting those working in health to literally run for their entire shift, which obviously compromises care. I was surprised I did not see someone die or another form of crisis take place in that waiting room.

I did see a crisis in our hospital system though. I'm sick of hearing about a budget surplus - I want facilities that can cope with the population they are meant to.

Responses

Response from Glen Matters, Bunbury Operations Manager, WACHS South West

Dear castorqm96,

Thank you for posting on Patient Opinion. I would really like the opportunity for us to investigate the things you have raised as they don’t meet the expectations on the service we deliver. It does appear that we could learn some lessons and improve our service and I would appreciate it if you could call me on 9722 1421. This will enable us to get your details and further investigate the concerns you have raised.

I do hope your parent is feeling better and thanks again for posting on Patient Opinion.

Regards

Glen Matters

Operations Manager Bunbury Hospital

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Update posted by castorqm96 (a relative)

Thank you for your response Glen. I will make contact, but I have read on numerous responses that 'we could learn' and that the situation has not met 'the expectations on the service we deliver'. This is why there continues to be an issue - the problem is funding, the problem is capacity of BRH and these cannot be solved by tweaking KPIs or expecting the over-worked staff to perform differently.

The recent announcement of the WA State Govt to have GP clinics linked with the Emergency Departments is a step in the right direction. Many of those in the waiting room the evening I was there had come from their GPs, making it obvious that the solution is to either increase the capacity of E&A or, increase the services of GPs, with easy and quick access to X-ray, blood testing, etc. I am assuming this will all be available via the public health system?

I commend the staff of BRH for working under such appalling and stressful conditions. They cannot work miracles, but how they managed to keep their cool the night I was there was close to it.

Response from Glen Matters, Bunbury Operations Manager, WACHS South West

Thank you castorqm96 for your reply, the offer to discuss further remains.

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