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.

 

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2 thoughts on “Fremantle Hospital

  1. In my inaugural speech to parliament last week I made the point that there is local concern that Fiona Stanley coming online in 2014 could actually mean a reduction in readily available health services, particularly for less mobile people in Fremantle. Fremantle Hospital needs its emergency facility to be retained.

    The nature of Fremantle as a population centre, an entertainment precinct and a working port means that having an accessible emergency facility is a must. It is not until that facility is closed that people will realise that despite Fremantle Hospital continuing to function as a hospital, there will be no ability for the public to walk in off the street and be treated.

    Of course we need to maintain that any health facility operates to the highest possible standard, and the story above concerns me greatly. I continue to hear stories about ramping, and Jane’s cirmumstances show the real danger involved in a delay in a proper diagnosis.

    I plan to pursue the retention of proper health services in Fremantle, including an emergency facility from Fremantle Hospital. As your posts highlight, the arguments for this are compelling.

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  2. Roger thank you for raising this issue. I have also spent some time at Fremantle Hospital and can confirm that I had excellent treatment and care from the staff. But there are significant challenges that they have to deal with because of the various rules, in particular the 4 hour turnaround rule for emergency. Fremantle apparently a good record on this KPI but there is a cost and it can be significant if you don’t know how serious your health issue might be.

    I also recognise that the nurses have to work under enormous pressure particularly when confronted with all the anti social behaviour that Fremantle dishes up to them on a daily basis and particularly the drunken/drugged weekend casualties. Substantially addressing this issue is something that needs to be addressed and the current debate on alcohol abuse should be taken up by all parties in Fremantle, including the community.

    The Council has led on issues like removing plastic bags, reducing carbon footprint. They should now be even more active in support of preventative measures to deal with alcohol abuse. We should not be in the position as we are now of being more lenient than Northbridge or Subiaco is in addressing this problem. So The challenge is out there to take at the very least a preventative approach to minimise anti social behaviour and self harm.

    It is essential that the emergency service continues. It is also essential that our hospital systems are funded and appropriately managed for the good of the community. I am sure that there are governance issues that must be addressed as in every large bureaucracy but the basis of any changes should be to ensure that the public good is the main criteria for decision making.

    Fremantle’s new member has committed to keeping The emergency services open but Lab is not in power so we shall have to ensure that liberal representatives are made aware of fremantle residents views.

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