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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Commissioner slams Wellington Hospital over man's death

"The Health and Disability Commissioner has slammed Wellington Hospital over the standard of care given to a 50-year-old man who died of pneumonia.

Ron Paterson was investigating a complaint from the man’s family after he was found dead, 40 hours after being admitted to hospital in September 2004.

The patient's chest X-ray and blood tests were not reviewed for almost 30 hours.

Mr Paterson says what happened was inexcusable, that staff provided a poor standard of care and the man was deprived of simple interventions that may have saved his life."
Gary Moller comments:
This report hardly comes as a surprise and is yet another of a string of awful cases over the years at Wellington Hospital causing unnecessary death and disability.

Reading between the lines of this case, it would appear that this man's bipolar disorder, chronic addiction to smoking and serious chest condition made him a difficult and stroppy patient from the momeent he arrived and the hospital staff took a collective dislike to him. The result was grossly inadequate treatment, bordering on deliberate neglect, that saw him dead in next to no time. It reminds me of a case in Dunedin Hospital many years ago that was never reported:

She was elderly, overweight and demented. She was admitted to hospital to lose weight. Her diet consisted of a glass of water and a piece of white bread with a dollop of Marmite. When she objected to her treatment and peed in her bed, she was isolated in a private room with no sensory stimulation. She did not eat or drink. Within a few days of sensory deprivation, starvation and dehydration she was going ga-ga. The treatment and the isolation continued. By the fifth day, she was dead.

Now this was homicide by willful neglect. Nobody intervened. Everybody just did what they were told and that was to administer the treatment and to do nothing else. The fact the patient died was irrelevant and nobody within the medical team felt responsible - or guilty for that matter. They all knew what was going on and nobody cared a damn about her or the horrific way she died.

I have written about this sort of thing in the past and the advice that I always come back to is this: You must ensure that you always have a strong, informed advocate by your side when you enter hospital; especially if you are elderly, cantankerous by nature or have a mental health condition that affects your behaviour. If the hospital staff take a dislike for you, your life may be at risk.


Wayne said...

I think theres a psychological phenomena in public hospitals, becuase of the chronically high workload, the staffs time and energy get stretched very thin among a lot of patients, and they can also become aggressive in the behaviour, i've been on the receiving end of a lot of it having worked on a hospital helpdesk, more aggression than i've had in any of the many other industries I"ve worked in, I worked in the timber industry and theres some rough diamonds there but never expereinced anywehre near the amount of aggression that i did from teh health industry, the health industry itself is sick and tired from over work, struggling to give adequate care to all so ewhether consciously or subconsciously, sometimes downright ruthless behaviour takes over, how much time nad energy can you give to difficult patients? i'im not excusing this but the industry barely has the resources to maintain the checks and balances all the time. a friend told me of a change to a hospital wisde communication system made at a couple of major hospitals recently, and there was a massive backlash from staff who showed just how oever worked they were using htis system to work in their spare time to prepare for their workshifts so they could devote less time to administration and more time to their patients when they were on shift. there is no lack of dedication on the whole in hispital staff but, pronlonged systematic stress can do terrible things to peoples ethics and morality sometimes, the classic study carried out in the states where students were diided up to be prisonsers and jail guards for a few weeks, the experiment had to be ended because of the brutality that the sturdent guards started exhibiting towards the prisonsers. a lot of the best staff just leave our public health system, the ones left behind are either ill experienced or hardened to the system of chronic over work. I would never go back and work in th public hospitals again, having left i now realise how bleak the mentality can there from the over work.
how much time do you spend beating your head against a brick wall with difficult patients? obviously there needs to be better systems in place to deal with this sort of behaviour , and there werent, staff probably didnt have the time to devise a better way of doing things and expected tough love to do the job, the patients werent coherent enough to communicate the distress they were in , indeed they were already in dire health which was aggravating their behaviour, how are we supposed to expect our medical minds to cope given the extremely long hours of work they must carry out with difficult technical decisions that have to constantly be made, which affect the welbeing and often the life of the people in our care? yet that is all part and parcel of the medical industry, who's staff have put up with working conditions few other professions would tolerate,
doctors are three times as liely to get divorced, have mental breakdowns, have drug problems or commit suicide than the average for other professions. chronic stress is areal problem, a year or so ago a doctor hit a member of the public in tehir car in hospital grounds and drove off, i'm betting they were at the end of their shift and not in their normal state of minds with stress levels already high the primitive fight or flight mechanism kicked in.


Gary Moller said...

A medical friend once commented that Wellington Hospital is a toxic worksite.

I estimate that A&E Drs spend about one 1/4 of their time seeing the patient and the rest filling out forms, either by hand or on the computer!

Ridiculous balance!

Wayne said...

well if they still didnt use ridculously long latin names for parts of the body and to describe medical conditions not to mention the names of the phareceuticals they experiment with.
some professions were originally developed in the latin language, a language that only a private education used to allow hundres of years ago, this kept the masses ignorant and all the power in hte nds of the medical professionals, still today a patient has no way of knowing what the chemicals that aree being pumped into them will do to them, maybe the doctors have an idea but not always, its aprofession that thinks complexity is best.
in a naturopathic consultation you are far more likely to get a plain english explanation and your consultation wil be longer and cheaper, and the patient is moer likely to have a bigger role in the power over their own recovery.

Gary Moller said...

And I hope it has not escaped the attention of readers that I do not use big words or mind-numbing explanations on this website!

Why say "biceps" when "upper arm" will do?