April 17, 2013 § 2 Comments
Ramped Up With Nowhere To Go.
My family had a virtual season ticket to Fremantle Hospital’s emergency ward. There were times when we felt we should have an apartment there, it may have been cheaper all round. We’ve had broken bones fixed; more stitches than a Chinese sweatshop could produce; cat bites treated and holes in the head patched up more than once. I doubt many people within striking distance of Freo’s hospital can be too critical of the service they have received. I can even remember the hospital being built. That would have been back in the mid 1970s and I can forgive it for being ugly with it’s overpowering neo-communist functional architecture.
A Shout Which Couldn’t Be Ignored
A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and that link almost broke this week. In fact it may still prove to do so. A friend, I’ll call her Jane Doe for the sake of this article, had been helping my neighbour with some light decorating work, nothing at all strenuous. I was enjoying a quiet gin and tonic on my verandah when my neighbour shouted out in a voice bordering on panic: “Rog, get down here fast, really fast, quick” It was a tone which couldn’t be ignored.
I ran to her house. Jane had collapsed and was unconscious in the garden. Anne my neighbour (not her real name) quickly explained that Jane, who had been sitting chatting, had suddenly complained of a severe headache, looked at Anne, vomitted and fallen unconscious out of the chair in a matter of a second or so (nothing to do with Anne’s looks, she doesn’t frighten people that much). I asked Anne to call an ambulance, tell them it was very urgent. I had checked Jane’s pulse which was very strong and fast and I didn’t suspect a heart attack.
There’s no point in going into finite detail but this was obviously a life threatening situation.
The ambulance arrived within a short time and Jane had recovered some degree of consciousness but could not talk. A paramedic got to work, asked Anne and me some questions which we answered in detail with other information about how this had occurred. The medic said she felt Jane was dehydrated. Without any real medical experience between us we were not going to argue. However, we both felt that was a diagnosis which was way off beam. Jane was treated for about 30 minutes and then taken to the hospital.
Five Hour Wait For Diagnosis
This is where the system started to unravel. It was Monday 8th and by now around 6 o’clock. The ambulance was ramped for at least two hours as emergency was busy, treating cases on a priority rating. Jane was placed in a corridor for three hours and when a doctor finally diagnosed her it was to say there was a suspected aneurism – a life threatening condition. She was quickly sent to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital’s world-class neurological department and immediately operated on to relieve pressure on the brain and drain the cranial cavity of blood. The following day she had a five hour operation to place a stent.
The current situation is there has been an additional five hour operation and Jane is still in danger of not recovering.
Keep The Emergency Ward, Keep the Hospital, No More Ramping.
My argument, and I don’t think too many people will disagree, follows. It is not meant to be critical of the ambulance service or of the paramedic. A paramedic is not necessarily a doctor and they are well trained to deal with emergency situations. However, on this occasion Anne and I didn’t feel the paramedic had listened closely enough to our description of the incident.
However, as result it is likely the ambulance was ramped and Jane, who would have been reported as being dehydrated, would not have been considered the highest level of emergency. It took five hours for the critical nature of the patient to be realised.
The question of ramping at an overcrowd hospital has to be considered as a really weak link in an otherwise excellent statewide service. In this case it could yet cost a life or severe brain damage as a result of the delay.
Thus our new state member of parliament and Fremantle’s council must ensure Fremantle’s emergency ward remains open, ramping must stop and consideration should be given to additional training for paramedics.
Fiona Stanley Hospital will open shortly. Two emergency facilities should be retained … in fact Fremantle Hospital, the medical heart of the city, must be kept pumping.
We live in one of the wealthiest states in the world (if we’re to believe what we’re told). Thus we should be able to maintain a fine medical service for the public.