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Sally Gleeson on 2GB discussing medical negligence

Sally Gleeson providing Q & A on the 2GB Chris Smith Afternoon Show discussing medical negligence– 11 September 2018

Tuesday, 11 September 2018


CS – Chris Smith /SG – Sally Gleeson /C1,2,3, etc – Callers



CS         Well a couple of weeks ago we heard the tragic news that a healthy 19 year old girl had died from meningococcal disease. Michelle Rhodes had been to Gosford Hospital’s Emergency Department the day before – only to be sent home with pain killers by staff – but the most shocking thing for me is that this isn’t the first time someone suffering from meningococcal disease has died at Gosford Hospital – in fact between 1999 and 2007, there were four deaths at Gosford and Wyong Hospitals from that one disease which Coroners also found were all preventable – so following Michelle’s death recently – you’ve got to wonder whether the Central Coast Public Hospital system and that Area Health Service has learnt anything from the past?  Four deaths between 1999 and 2007 and one recently. And what happens from here? What action should Gosford Hospital take to make sure this doesn’t happen again and what sort of compensation is Michelle’s family entitled to? That’s part of what we’ll discuss in our Legal Matters segment this afternoon – Free legal advice – it doesn’t come along too easily and too often but courtesy of Turner Freeman – you can call the number 131 873 – our open line number – 131 873 – and if you’ve got a medical negligence question that you’d like some advice on and maybe some tips on – give us a call on the open line and thanks to Turner Freeman Lawyers we’ve got a $100 Westfield voucher to one of our callers during this segment. $100 to go and spend at a Westfield department store. Turner Freeman Lawyers also provide a specialised legal services range including compensation and negligence law, asbestos litigation, superannuation and disability claims, family and employment law, Wills and estates and also property law. Sally Gleeson is a Partner in the Turner Freeman Sydney office and specialises in medical negligence litigation. She joins me in the studio. Sally. Thank you very much for coming in.

SG       Thanks Chris.

CS         I didn’t know the true background of Gosford Hospital here – firstly Michelle’s story more recently is such a tragic one. As I understand it, she went to hospital and got sent home with pain killers. Do you know much more than that?

SG         Nothing other than my experience with other patients who some unfortunately didn’t make it and some did with ongoing and permanent disabilities. So, I think we know that she went into the hospital. She had signs and symptoms that were consistent with meningococcal and allegedly she was sent away.

CS         How does that happen then?

SG         Because the symptoms of meningococcal disease mask other diseases but obviously it’s clear to me that a doctor, a proper doctor – a doctor that is competent – knows he or she is doing can easily detect the early warning signs and alarm bells should go off in that doctor’s head.

CS         Oh absolutely.

SG         So Michelle would have presented – well I don’t know what she presented with – but she would have presented with symptoms that could have masked her true symptoms but evident any doctor who is trying to look out for these symptoms.

CS        And you would have thought that there’s a procedure that health professionals should take and almost – I don’t know – am I being too simplistic here that there is a checklist to look for meningococcal? And isn’t there a rash that gives you the first signs that the diagnosis could be meningococcal?

SG         Well, when someone goes into hospital, they are going to hospital because they are at the end of the road. They’re not going into hospital because they’ve had a cold for a few days – they are going into hospital because they need urgent treatment – they’re in trouble – most of the time when they go to the Emergency Department, they are seeking intervention and they are seeking urgent help from a physician and saying – I can’t handle it anymore – I need some assistance. So with meningococcal, you know symptoms include fever, headache, neck stiffness, joint pain and the rash that you are talking about – the bruising is at the very end of the road when the disease has been there and has been brewing for a little while – so initially the symptoms are different and the symptoms are serious and the disease is potentially fatal and so when someone goes in, more should be done other than here’s a Panadol go home – you’ve got a virus – because it could be masking a very serious disease. It’s a……..

CS         Yeah – and it’s not the first time……. those statistics are fairly frightening with the number that have died from meningococcal for going to either Gosford or Wyong Hospitals. In the past what did the coroners find? Do you know?

SG         Well the coroners have found in some cases and other cases – not in all cases – but in some cases that the death was preventable – that more should have been done – that this was an acute bacterial infection – it was highly dangerous – the victim presented or the patient presented and nothing was done – they were turned away – they were sent away.

CS         And will Michelle’s case be examined by the coroner as well?

SG         It should be examined by the coroner. The family should ask that it be examined by the coroner and a full investigation must be conducted by the hospital and obviously the hospital has to act on what’s happened and they have to look within and change the policies and procedures and educate those staff.

CS         You would have thought that would have been done after the 4th death 10 years ago – sorry- in 2007.

SG         Absolutely, but there’s a lack of communication – so the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing – so you’ve got patients going to major public hospitals in all regions and patients are being told – you’ll be right – go home – as I said – Here’s some anti – you know – pain killer medication.

CS         Okay

SG         So it’s vital that patient’s rights are upheld – a patient is listened to and more is done other than ” go home”.

CS         Yeah – you’re not wrong. We’ll talk about compensation related to Michelle’s case in just a second.  But let’s go to some callers – 131 873 – Medical negligence – anything related to – not just meningococcal, but anything that may have been related to a hospital visit you’ve had or surgery you’ve had and you weren’t quite right and you weren’t happy with the service and the care that you got. 131 873 is the telephone number and Sally Gleeson is quite happy to take your calls this afternoon. Collin – go ahead.

Caller 1 – Collin

Collin    Yeah – my wife was admitted to Liverpool Brain & Injury Ward about 3 years ago – they gave her an operation to put to bone  back in and they left stitches in afterwards and she’s gone backwards. They made a number of mistakes with medication and also last December I asked them – I brought her home and they guaranteed me she would be re-admitted in February.  They’ve refused to accept her back. She’s at home now – she keeps going back, back and backwards – she’s deteriorating and the care company now will not give her physio because they’ve said – because all their carers are not trained – nobody can give her physio – so she’s now deteriorating faster and Lifetime Care – the ones who are supposed to look after her. Have had a complaint in for over 3 weeks and haven’t even got back to me.

SG         I’m sorry to hear that Collin. I mean – I totally hear what you are saying and I’ve heard it many many times before – sometimes the system is inadequate and it doesn’t give people the proper treatment that they deserve. Does your wife need any further surgical intervention now or has she…………

Collin    Well she’s waiting to have an operation.

SG         Okay. And she………

Colin    There’s a bone put back in. They’ve had three attempts.

SG         And why haven’t they been able to do the operation successfully?

Collin    Because every time…. because when they left the stitches in, just after that, there was an infection – every time they’d put the bone back in….the infection comes back and they tell me that it’s not due to this or they can’t prove that it was due to the stitches being left in – but basically, she’s been now for 3 years without a bone in her head properly – she keeps going backwards and now they don’t even give the therapy she needs and it’s just disgraceful as far as I’m concerned.

SG         It is disgraceful – I mean the hardest cases are those cases where someone already presents unwell and they need treatment and they are not afforded that treatment and then the mistake happens and then it is a spiral down. So what I’d need to do is I need to talk to you about your wife’s circumstances. I need to talk to you openly about what would have happened had the right treatment been instituted and where your wife would have been now ……….

CS         Collin – by the sound of it, you do want to investigate……….

Collin    ……….. the operation.

CS         Colin – by the sound of it – you do want to take this further.

Collin    I do.

CS         Yeah – okay. Stay on the line mate and we’ll exchange some numbers so you can talk to Sally off line – it sounds like a cavalcaded mistakes that occurred through that process.

SG         Absolutely. And you’ve got to weigh through what happened and what shouldn’t have happened and what has happened.

CS         Okay – back to the meningococcal cases, just briefly – what sort of compensation would Michelle’s family be entitled to?

SG         Michelle’s family are her relatives and under the law they are entitled to what’s called Compensation to Relatives and what that means is any family member who suffered by virtue of losing a loved one, is entitled to nervous shock compensation – so compensation for any psychiatric injury that’s suffered because of the trauma – not a normal grief reaction – an abnormal grief reaction. So it’s very early days and I understand that.

CS         You’d have grief but you’d also have anger……..

SG         Absolutely.

CS         They sent her home with the drugs…..

SG         Absolutely.

CS         I’ve got to take a break – we’ll come back and take more calls from our listeners today – a few on the board with some very interesting cases. Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman  and I’ve got a $100 Westfield voucher to give away as well.

We’ve got Sally Gleeson from Turner Freeman – we’ve got that $100 Westfield voucher to give away as well.  We’ll take your calls. I want to go to Ian in Robina. And this could be a very common occurrence for some of our listeners. Go ahead Ian.

Caller 2 – Ian

Ian         Oh g’day mate.

CS         Hi.

Ian         Yeah – listen – I’m ringing for my brother – he lives down……… Batemans Bay. 10 years ago he had bowel cancer.  He had 600 mm of his bowel removed and he’d been having regular blood tests for those 5 years – all under the same doctor – everything was clear – so the doctor said “Look – you’re right there – you’ve passed the 5 period”. Lately he has been losing a lot of weight. He went to see his doctor and his doctor said “Look mate, you better start eating more – you’re not eating enough“. And I said “Look mate  go back and tell him you want a full blood test”.

CS       Yeah.

Ian      Now the blood tests have come back with high count. He’s going in for ………

CS       This would be….. Look Sally…….. – let me intervene there – because I want to get to another call but this would be common where you know – prima face – they go  “No, don’t worry about that”. They don’t bother doing the test – they send people home and then later on when the patient you know – he insists on having a test – it’s proved that they’ve got a bad disease like cancer.

SG      And the disease missing the diagnosis – I mean that’s a big one. Hi Ian. Are you there?

Ian      Yes – I’m here…..

SG      Yes – Hi Ian. Okay – has your brother had some tests done and has anything been confirmed?

Ian      Well he’s going in for a colonoscopy on Monday.

SG      Okay.

Ian      But he’s had the ultrasound and all the rest and had the blood test, but the counts were very high on his blood test.

SG      Yes.

CS       Is he unhappy and are you unhappy at the fact that he was sent home the second time.

Ian      Well he’s been clear for 5 years.

CS       Yeah.

Ian      Well he’s been going to this doctor for 5 years – the doctor should have been saying to him “Every year look mate  because you’ve had cancer – you should be having a blood test every 12 months”.

CS       Is it incumbent on a doctor to do that though Sally?

SG      It depends on the cancer and it depends on the disease and it depends on the markers in the blood and exactly what type of disease and stage.  So you can’t……….

CS       Yes – it’s an interesting…….

SG      You can’t – you can’t – it’s not in across the board assumption that’s got to be done, but the other thing is that your brother was losing weight Ian and that’s unusual.  You don’t just lose weight unless you are trying to lose weight…

CS       Okay Ian. Ian – how about we put you in contact with Sally and maybe you can talk off air and if some of the circumstances are suit taking another legal step, Sally will guide you through all of that.

Ian      Oh good – thank you very much.

SG      Thank you Ian.

CS       Stay there Ian. Thank you. Ah… Kianne. Hi.

Caller 3 – Kianne.

Kianne            Hi – how are you?

CS         Good thank you.

SG         Hi Kianne.

Kianne            I’m just calling because my brother presented to the Bateman’s Bay Hospital back in 2016 with a severe headaches and whatnot and he was turned away and just told to take Panadol – but what happened was when he went home that night, he actually died in his sleep from a brain aneurysm.

CS         Oh my ……

SG         Oh my goodness….. I’m so sorry Kianne.

Kianne            Thank you.

SG         I’m very sorry – I can’t tell you how sorry I am – that’s terrible. I am very happy to talk to you about it further. Has anything been done? Has any action been taken as against the hospital or investigation conducted?

Kianne            No. So that’s pretty much why I am calling to see you know what I can do or my family can do.

SG         Sure.

CS         Let’s try and do something for you – but firstly you’ve got the $100 Westfield voucher Kianne – thank you for calling in and we’ll try and get Sally and you to have a chat about some of the other circumstances and maybe getting something done in the legal framework. Thank you Kianne – stay there – don’t go anywhere. Sally Gleeson – I’ve run out of time.  But thank you very much for yours this afternoon.

SG         Thanks Chris – see you next time.

CS       Okay – Some very sad cases today. in Queensland 13 43 63. If you want to call them in NSW 1300 237 112. 1300 237 112.


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