Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My experience with the Northern Hospital, Epping Melbourne in 2004

My letter to the Northern Hospital  dated the 16th July 2004
                                                           To Whom It may Concern.
                                                               ‘Without Prejudice’

 I am writing this letter because on the 30th January 2004, I was unlucky enough to require your services.  I presented at the Emergency Room after having a 600kg horse collapse whilst I was standing beside her, My husband drove me to the ER at approx 8.30pm, I was triaged quickly and placed in a consulting room to wait for the doctor.

 I was kept waiting for several hours and when finally seen by a doctor the doctor was going to discharge me, because it appeared that I was not in pain, as long as I was immobile.  But as soon as any pressure was applied to my leg, I went through the roof.  The doctor still said (with out X-rays) that the leg was severely bruised and rest should take care of. 

As I am a fairly docile person and have a high tolerance to pain, I thought okay, he is the professional, and he has studied and should know best.  But my husband being a little fierier than me requested X-rays.  The doctor thought these were unnecessary, but decided to shut him up anyway.  X-rays were taken and low and behold I had a broken fibula!

 The doctor was amazed that I was in so little pain, but like I had said from the time that I presented to the triage nurse I have a HIGH pain threshold due to previous injuries that have been on going.

So after a while the leg was placed in plaster and I was told to present tomorrow for a ‘plaster check’. No X-rays were taken after the plaster had been set. 

I presented for the plaster check mid afternoon the following day and was told that the plaster needed to be reapplied as the ankle had been set in the incorrect position.

I endured this with some pain, but kept my mouth shut. At this stage I was feeling useless and depressed at the fact that I was unable to earn an income and that I would be relying on people for everything from getting around to even cooking and cleaning (by the way those people that I refer to were my husband and children, 7 and 12) because I have no family within a reasonable distance who are able to assist me.

I was told that within the week I would receive an appointment card in the mail to attend the plaster clinic with the time and day on it. By the following Wednesday the swelling on my leg had reduced and I was able to get my fingertips to my ankle inside the plaster cast. The cast was offering NO support what so ever.

I presented back to the Northern to get someone to look at the plaster and replace it. I would have thought that this would have been a given, considering that I had a broken bone and the leg had not been in plaster for the 6 weeks that I thought was the norm for a broken bone. I presented at the Triage window again and requested that someone needs to look at the plaster as I believe that it is wrong and needs to be replaced. Considering I was in considerable pain and had been for a period of a week by this time, I was feeling useless, depressed and close to tears most of the time. When the triage nurse saw the plaster I believe that she agreed with me and sent me next door to the clinic within the ER.

I waited there for hours, and by this time I was crying because my leg was sore and I felt as though no one believed me.  Finally a person (a nurse)  I believe came to me, looked at the plaster and said I don’t think we need to replace this, when is your appointment with the plaster clinic? I said what appointment, I have not received any notification and I have not even had the plaster on for 1 week. In the end I had to demand that the plaster be replaced through the Doctor. Who also asked me how I was coping. I was not coping. I was unable to feed my children I was unable to wash their clothes I was even unable to have a shower by myself. When I mentioned this to the doctor he found a social worker, who after asking if I lived with anyone, I said yes, my husband. Oh well he has to help you, we can’t

This was news to me, as he was trying to supervise apprentices and stop them from presenting to the Northern Hospital minus a finger or two. Sounds funny? Well stand in his shoes and see how funny Workcover think it is when you are charged with lack of supervision of an apprentice.

 At this same appointment I was presented with a card to see the Plaster clinic doctors the following week.

 Therefore I was sent home to fend for myself,  and try and feed two children and not kill myself getting up and down the front door step to tend the animals and the children. During this time, I was still in considerable pain, and my GP thinks I may have re-broken the leg at some stage when my left leg gave out, as it is prone to do, due to previous injuries, (Which I notified the Hospital about!)

 I presented at the Northern Hospital at the Plaster Clinic had an X-ray and was told it is okay to walk on!  Haha I could not weight bear let alone stand on it and walk.  I went to my GP, a person I am sure you are familiar with.  He took one look at X-ray and put me straight back in plaster.  This time the plaster was neat and reasonably comfortable.  I waited for a further 5 weeks and then the doctor took the plaster off and was happier with the result, but due to the two weeks, without adequate support, the healing process was very slow to start.

Because of this and the fact that the leg was still very painful, I requested a referral to a Specialist, I go to see the specialist In March, 3 months after the initial accident. He was surprised, but non-committal to the treatment that I had received from the Northern Hospital.

I am writing this letter for many reasons; one is to complain about the service and the additional cost that I now have to incur because of the inadequate care that I received under the umbrella of the Northern Hospital. I am sure that when I initially presented I was seen as a hypochondriac because I was not absolute agony, once I was immobile. I am sure that when I presented to the Northern Hospital on the third occasion I was just looking for attention and I am sure that when I tried to talk to the Doctor at the Plaster clinic he saw me as a malingerer.

I am none of the above and have never been. After being involved in a car accident whereby my vehicle was rear ended by a 12 tonne truck, and not having ONE day off. I know I am not. I am by no means rich in fact; some days my husband and children get a meal of potatoes only, because there is no other food in the house.  I am no entitled to any government assistance because my husband owns his own business and because I work a taxable income. I receive NO children support, No family and no income assistance and of course no rental assistance because we are struggling to pay off our own house.

Because of your treatment or lack of it. I am now faced with huge private medical bills and also the uncertainty that had I received appropriate timely treatment, I might already be walking normally on my leg, within the ‘normal’ six week period. I would not have lost as much income, because I would have been back at work already AND not spending time at Specialists along with the money for no reason. Because I am a contractor, I am not entitled to sick leave and was lucky that I did not lose my job. AT no point in time was ANY assistance offered to me. I get the feeling that because I was not ‘on the dole’ and I was not ‘single’ I was discriminated against.

I would like your comment on this letter as a matter of course, because I would like to see what your thoughts are.

A follow up letter from me to the Northern Hospital dated the 24th September 2004

‘Without Prejudice’

Mr xxxxxx
I have previously written to you on the 16th July 2004, regarding a problem that I have concerning the Northern Hospital, I have yet to receive a response other than ‘we have received your letter and are looking into the matter’ which was dated the 21st July 2004.
It is now 2 months since the original letter was received and I was wondering when I might receive a reply?
I have enclosed both letters for your perusal and thought you might like to comment on them.
Since that time, I am still under the care of a specialist, the swelling in my leg is still quite evident and the specialist says that it is not normal.  Tuesday the 21st September 2004 I tripped and managed to jar my leg again. This means that I missed another day of work due to the pain and I am now back on crutches.
Again I believe that had I received appropriate and correct treatment in the first place I would not be in this position.
I am still incurring specialist fees, I am still losing money due to the fact that I am sometimes unable to drive and consequently unable to attend work and this doesn’t take into account the fact that the house is a mess. Whilst we are on the topic of care or lack of, how many 7 year olds do you know that can make their own breakfast and clean up the mess afterwards? Because I have a little boy that has been forced to do this and that makes me very sad.
Should you require any further information please feel free to contact me 

I received a one paged letter, that said, sorry, we have implemented changes in the emergency department and something like this shouldn't happen again. Forget the fact I've paid $1000's if not $10,000's now in 2014, or forget the fact no-one wants to employ a 'cripple'........... Yup, forget about ALL that. As long as the hospital didn't receive any adverse media coverage.

Forget the fact I sat on an esky in the shower, for the time my leg was in plaster, forget the fact.............. Yeah, well, you know the story. You've read it.

Have any hospital horror stories? Let me know



  1. I think you have given the hospital a fair time for a decent response. Time to go to the medical ombudsman, I think.

    No one could have had a worse experience than Therese at She lost her husband because of the incompetence by Sydney's Royal North Shore Hospital.

  2. Thanks Andrew for the link........ another story from a 'world-case' health system, (so we are told)............ I just wonder if death and mayhem is not the system that is now the health system. Interesting to see that Therese's sorry time-wise is close to my own. Different states and only 3 years apart.

    Singapore's looking pretty good for health care from where I stand :(

    Thanks again Andrew